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Incorrect Merciful Impulses

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  297 ratings  ·  39 reviews
"A poet to watch."—O Magazine

"I tell the truth, but I try to be kind about it."—Camille Rankine in 12 Questions

Named "a poet to watch" by O Magazine, Camille Rankine's debut collection is a series of provocations and explorations. Rankine's short, lyric poems are sharp, agonized, and exquisite, exploring themes of doubt and identity. The collection's sense of continuity an
Paperback, 80 pages
Published December 29th 2015 by Copper Canyon Press (first published September 8th 2015)
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Julie Christine
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read each of these poems aloud. There was no other way to do it. The rhythm of Rankine's lines, the urgency of her stanzas, demand to be listened to as much as read. My throat, tongue, mouth, lips felt the meaning at least as much as my brain.

In the half-light, I am most
at home, my shadow
as company.

When I feel hot, I push a button
to make it stop.I mean this stain on my mind
I can't get out. How human

I seem. Like modern man,
I traffic in extinction. I have a gift.
Like an animal, I sustain.
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I've been waiting for this book since I stumbled across Rankine's poetry in A Public Space and Gulf Coast last year. She has a way about her. A book to return to, to ask "how does she do it" and remain mystified. There's a certain unfolding of language, a curious arrangement of syntax to envy. Pages as brilliant as the title and cover design. I wish it went on and on. ...more
Meg Gee
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections I've ever read. Rankine is flawless and startling in her choices of world building. Her titles and forms only further the perfection of each image and twist of humor. Rankine is pearl-handled death delivering precise and staggering landscapes that will stun you each and every time. A legend. ...more
Sean Flynn
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Yes, these poems have to be read aloud. But I think that a book, or other piece of art, has to allow the reader their own interpretative capacity. So, I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to the school that says I am not permitted to read poetry any way I like. And I think that robbed the enjoyment of the poetry from me. Not to mention that Rankine’s style is quite Plathian, with the added layer of deliberate obscureness, making reading her book a mountain. There were a few poems I did like that I f ...more
Chris Roberts
Dec 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have twisted art
and sculpted love away from the heart.

Chris Roberts, God Unvanquished
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Camille Rankine’s poems are smooth and lyrical. She successfully strikes a balance between abstraction and realism, making the poems approachable yet deep. An image grounds the reader on the first read, and abstractions invite second, third, fourth reads. I enjoyed this style, as I sometimes find poetry collections difficult to read. Rankine speaks on a range of human experiences, from student debt, black history, the oppression of women, and optimism.
My favorite lines come from the poem “Faile
Heather Lake
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this collection quite a lot, but I did find the poems to be too distant and vague at times, and wished I could feel the author’s particular experiences more clearly. Maybe this is just more of a stylistic preference than a critique though?

I don’t need the experiences of the author spelled out per say, but upon finishing a poetry collection I do like to feel as if I’d connected with the author, or understand them to some degree. I didn’t really get that as much as I’d like with this bo
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Life as an existential mystery, where death is around the corner, giving narrative to the room.

These are shadowy poems in the sense that they trace the outlines of things and play with the ephemerality of experience.

Rankine makes deft use of line breaks, and carefully allows themes, ideas and perspectives to bleed into, collide, and erode one another.

A really great debut that shows a sense of history buried in the body.
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is insanely beautiful. I can't recommend it enough. ...more
Lexi Nylander
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Sometimes in the morning your hand finds the dip in my side. For the moment we'll call it happiness.

You didn't want to hate the living, you just wanted it to snow

Dear night: It was so warm under you that I offered but you refused to endure. You won't remember me. (We danced. I was the one in the dark. I was wearing this face.)

Mercy, unpoison me and tell me what for. I'm only crabgrass green, after all, experiencing things.

I never knew where to put my hands when she laughed.

I engulf with an affec
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So many of her lines shook me to my core. I even posted a verse on Instagram because it resonated with me so much. I loved how she incorporated philosophical terms and concepts into several of the poems. My favorite pieces in this collection were those in which she spun the philosophical with the earthly, and exposed how these realms are in fact not quite that different. Some of the apocalyptic-toned poems were a bit too jarring for me, but this sentiment is of course subjective. Structurally, I ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book needs to be more known, needs to be more popular and more read than all those new tumblr/instagram poetry anthologies.
What Rankine is writing here truly is arresting, thought provoking poetry that is hiding so many things, weaving so many threads and stories and secrets in the layout and the word choices and the verses that you'll definitely want to read this again and again to gain even a glimpse of what she might mean.

The style is arresting and beautiful, the imagery vivid and true,
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Poetry is so subjective. Whether you'll like it depends on you. This collections covers a wide array of issues from love, to trauma, to reality.


"The grief is a planet. A dust ring.
A small moon that's been hidden
under my pillow, that's been changing
the way my body moves this whole time."

"To what degree is this imaginary: life,
imaginary hours parceled out in morsels,
each minute sifted half in one eye, half
lifted in the wind. In this way, one day
stumbles to the next, skinless and inexact.
Allie N.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
I mean, I already hate poetry and having to read things for class, but this was just miserable. Vague, pointless. I have no sympathy or empathy. Reading poetry is truly a practice in torture for me, and I hate that I have to try and interpret some wishy washy words of a woman I don't know nor care to know. This book has no substance or thought and would rather remain at an arm's length with the reader than say anything important. An absolute bore and waste of my money. ...more
Joanie Zosike
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Sparse, elegant, intelligent. This is the writing of a young woman who knows her craft and can sculpt on a page. Hers is a serious palate that makes its pronouncements with authority far beyond her years, at the same time without didacticism or arrogance. It's a lovely book well worth reading, and I look forward to see more of her work forthcoming. ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Camille Rankine’s first collection of poems came out last fall in the nick of time. Along with the music of Leonard Cohen, it has been with me particularly since the election and into the new year of Trump’s Bizzaro America. Not that Rankine’s work is specifically political or had anything to do with Trump. These remarkable poems have a timelessness and a calculated ambiguity that decouples the work from any specific moment or circumstance without ever undermining their applicability to any spec ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Before we could beautify our death
it was a white noise in my head, underwater-

red. The bullet holes in the walls
were stars and stars.

A fantastic debut collection. Elegant writing and thought-provoking content.

I sadly couldn't connect with every poem, but this doesn't make me less excited for Rankine's future work!
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
While undoubtedly a masterfully crafted collection of poems, it doesn't necessarily fall into the style of poetry I gravitate towards; there were many poems in which the meanings and messages felt too withheld, too hidden behind aphorisms or imagery.

There were other poems, though, that absolutely bowled me over. But this collection was, admittedly, somewhat of a mixed bag for me.
Alison Sea
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-poetry
Umm... this was amazing. I read it on Scribd.

The poems in here made me feel so many things. It made me think about identity, being lost, being part of the world but feeling distant from it.

The cadence of the words is amazing. These are the type of poems that make you want to read them aloud.

All in all, I love this.
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
- Dear Enemy
- Symptoms of Island
- Fireblight
- Contact
- Possession
- Lament for the living
Elizabeth Wenger
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was beautiful. Go get it from the library, I'll return it today. ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Powerful and beautiful poems, easy to get lost in the Rankine's language. ...more
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a rather poignant and timely collection to read during the middle of the pandemic.
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I decided to read this book after one of Rankine's poems was featured on the daily poem email to which I subscribe. Although that piece resonated, I found the rest of the poems here difficult to connect with. I felt like I was skimming over the top of them, unsure how to breach beneath the surface. ...more
Sara Watson
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intense dialogue between present and past bodies and voices.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, 3-star, poetry
3.5 stars


I wasn't particularly moved by Rankine's debut collection of poetry, primarily because I found the collection as a whole to be somewhat lacking in theme. I would definitely check out future volumes by Rankine, however, as there were several poems that I did like a lot.

Favorite Poems: "Still Life Mechanical," "Still Life with Copernicus & Hypnophobia," "Vespertine," "The Problem of Death within Life," and "Wake"

Favorite Quote: "I've given up / on sense, except / the patterns / of the
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I absolutely loved Rankine's poetry, it reminded me so much of one of my very favourite authors - Richard Siken - in it's own special way.

"Dear terror, I come looking for you and I find you everywhere."
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
There is some fine poetic work here, new wordsmithing and crazy phrasing that will delight. For example,
"That afternoon you were a brisk,/ starched thing. We slipped out/ the back way, screen door banging/ cruel on my slim-boned grim."
"This is a brief malfunction. When you shift/ out of the frame, the feeling shorts/ and dissipates in sparks./ What a mess I've made of this/ emotion. It's only endlessness/ I've wanted. I can't fill my bowl, or yours./ I can't keep my fool mouth shut."
Erica Wright
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Even as the poems confess our fragility—our humanness—they confront our fears. In "Dear Enemy," Rankine writes, "Dear terror, I come looking and I find you everywhere." This is a bold, brilliant debut.

Postcard Review:
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Favorite poem: Fireblight

-I think I appreciate poetry more when it is about something concrete. I couldn't really feel much of the author in these poems. I think this is more my stylistic preference and not so much a signifier of her talent.
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“I am dirt
and all the nights that keep ending like this:
I return from the party, my life is smoke,
I fall asleep trying to seduce you”
“In both my lives, my nerves go bust.
I’m certain that I’m not

as I appear, that I’m a figment
and you’re not really here.

The struggle
is authenticity.

I have a message.
You must believe me.”
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