In this fiercely feminist ecopoetic collection, Kathryn Nuernberger reclaims love and resilience in an age of cruelty.
As the speaker—an artist and intellectual—finds herself living through a rocky marriage in a conservative rural state, she maintains her sense of identity by studying the science and folklore of plants historically used for birth control. Her botanical portraits of common herbs like Queen Anne’s lace and pennyroyal are interwoven with lyric biographies of groundbreaking women ecologists whose stories have been left untold in textbooks.
With equal parts righteous fury and tender wisdom, Rue reassesses the past and recontextualizes the present to tell a story about breaking down, breaking through, and breaking into an honest, authentic expression of self.
Elements can be named after a scientist,
a mineral, a place or a country, a property,
or a mythological concept. The four new
elements, all of which are synthetic,
were discovered by slamming lighter nuclei
into each other and tracking the resulting
decay of the radioactive superheavies.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired
of making things out of other things.
I came out to this bar to read the news
in the company of people falling in love
for only the second or third time. Like
other superheavies that populate the end
of the periodic table, the new ones exist
for only fractions of a second before
dissolving into more familiar atomic particles.
Is it true that I’m here hoping a stranger
might take me home? Of course it is.
“Rue is a brilliant meditation on corporeality, history, and what it means to move through the natural and material world—be it a field of pennyroyal or the Dollar General—in a female body. Kathryn Nuernberger’s astonishing poems present an urgent and devastating discourse, via many-layered gut-punch narratives, of the complex ways in which we are connected to one another that together become a powerful reckoning on female strength and desire in the #MeToo era.”
—Erika Meitner, author of Holy Moly, Carry Me
“This collection lets you open yourself to the possibility of truth stripped bare of the cultural baggage that keeps us from speaking our minds to strangers and friends and lovers alike. Let Rue bewitch you, let it charm you, as rue strung around the neck to keep your vision sharp and deflect from plague and remedy what ails you. Let it locate what ails you, and extract it with whatever needs to be said.”
—Jennifer Givhan, author of Rosa’s Einstein
“These long, chattering poems offer so much warmth and intimacy of voice that we hardly notice Kathyrn Nuernberger has talked us straight into confrontations with some of the most sinister aspects of Western modernity. The animal violence underlying bourgeois decorum, the suffocating brutality of our patriarchy, and the gross and beastly truths of our human sexuality are all lined up here. Nuernberger knocks them down one by one with cutting humor, a breadth of erudition and book smarts, and the reassuring potency of her feminism.”
—Jaswinder Bolina, author of The 44th of July
“Kathryn Nuernberger’s remarkable collection Rue asks what it means to know another person, how imagination and action intersect to shape our experiences of love and desire. I adore how her poems show a mind in motion, its obsessions, its honesties. I adore its deft syntax winding us from a love of nature to the nature of love, interrogating what it means to love complicated people in history and in the present—what it is to be a complicated person. Among the book’s questions are concerns with the female body—who gets to control it and how, who imperils it and under what guise of professionalism or friendship, and what flowers let women control it for themselves.”
—Traci Brimhall, author of Saudade