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Incorrect Merciful Impulses

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  215 ratings  ·  30 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.
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.
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
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.
ray j
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is insanely beautiful. I can't recommend it enough.
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,
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Powerful and beautiful poems, easy to get lost in the Rankine's language.
Sara Watson
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intense dialogue between present and past bodies and voices.
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."
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, poetry, women
“Dear bad animal
Dear caged thing
There was something about you”

my favorite poems:

- symptoms of island
- always bring flowers
- fireblight
- still life with copernicus & hypnophobia
- outliving
- instructions for modern graffiti
- possession
- matter in retreat
- genealogy
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.
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:
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I want to cry b/c this book wasn't what I wanted it to be and I am mad at myself for beginning a book and then getting an idea of what I wanted it to be, Lucy that's no way to read a book that's no way to read a poem that's no way to live

(I love this book(
Sep 08, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I loved the lyrical flow of these poems. Some of them were beautiful, 5 star pieces. But some of them seemed to drift a bit, in a way I found more confusing than pretty or artistic. Definitely lots of promise, and would consider reading more of her work.
3.5 stars
Frankie K
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
got me through the election results in the us today. political and full of a range of human emotion.
Aug 12, 2016 added it
Shelves: grad-school
"A terrible consonance of days."
rated it it was amazing
Jan 23, 2018
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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”
“The Increasing Frequency of Black Swans"

I was listening for the dog
when the locks were pried open.
The man was dead. The dog, a survivor,
was dead. It happens

more often this way.
A disease left
untreated; the body,
in confusion, gives in.

The bomb breathes its fire down
the hallway, the son comes back
in pieces; the body,
in confusion, gives in.

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.”
More quotes…