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Oceanic

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  75 reviews
In her fourth collection, Aimee Nezhukumatathil hums a bright blue note—a sensuous love song to the Earth and its inhabitants. Oceanic is both a title and an ethos of radical inclusion, inviting in the grief of an elephant, the icy eyes of a scallop, “the ribs / of a silver silo,” and the bright flash of painted fingernails. With unmatched sincerity, Oceanic speaks to each ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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Roxane
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a collection of vast wonder. As ever, Aimee Nezhukumatathil engages with the natural world, with love and passion, with motherhood, and does so gorgeously. These poems are oceanic individually and when collected as a whole. So much to admire here.
Ellie
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As so much I'm reading of late, many of these poems concern threats of deportation and the attendant fear. Nezhukumatathil creates a vivid atmosphere. Also, her description of her teacher taking attendance and struggling with her name was both amusing and moving, since it becomes representative of all the struggles the narrator faces in belonging to her new world.

Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is a lot of variety in this collection. Some poems were sensuous and unhurried. Others had great images of ocean life and the natural world. Some, like One-Star Reviews of the Taj Mahal, were funny and sad at the same time. Overall, these were enjoyable to read.
Amorak Huey
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"To everything there is a season of parrots. But instead of feathers we searched the sky for meteors on our last night."

This book is so good.
Alex Johnson
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-buy
The poem "The Body," while not my favorite in Aimee Nezhukumatathil's collection, is representative of this book. It begins by talking about how sea stars rip themselves apart and then shifts to the speaker wishes to pull apart their arms because they keep reaching for things like "yellow houses" and "slow summers." The comparison with the sea stars gives a whole new dimension to the feeling of destructive yearning captured in the poem.

It seems cliche to have a book of poetry that is tied
...more
Keith Taylor
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So many things to like about this book -- not least, the choice to celebrate the world and the things of the world. Nezhukumatathil obviously knows things/creatures/plants (or at the very least has taken the time to look things up), and finds easy metaphors in them, ones she can run with for as far as her imagination can take her.

For instance "Chess" starts "Exactly four different men have tried/to teach me how to play." Direct statement. Within a couple of lines she has found "knight" and, of
...more
Gloria
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
With both reverence and curiosity, these poems create a strong connection between the marvels found in nature and instinctive family bonds. Ruminating on mankind’s relations with the natural world invites deep spirit-filled exploration beyond the surface of any ocean. The precarious nature of life, especially as affected by climate change, is illustrated again and again.

There are small contemplative lessons, reminders that there are significant possibilities for perceiving the world with new
...more
Luke Gorham
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, poetry
Often surprising. Always linguistically assured. Maybe just...a little bit of a trifle? Or maybe I just read this amidst a period of gut-punch collections that made this feel somehow soft. Very much still plus on this though.
Isaiah Vianese
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Aimee Nezhukumatathil's fourth collection, Oceanic, is a joyful book about love and motherhood, set against international backdrops (namely in the US, China, and India). As hinted by the title, water imagery and ocean wildlife are key images throughout. Many of these poems have a playful free-associative quality that can feel fun (or perhaps perplexing for some readers). Overall, this is a light, pleasant book.
jada reyes
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5: holy guacamole. i have been carrying this book around with me for months because i was DREADING finishing it. i'm so happy i found aimee's poems. i loved every single one and i feel so sad to be finished. it's definitely one of Those books for me. i can't wait to own a copy one day!!!! also "My South"......made me cry. lots of poems made me cry. thankful for mrs. nezhukumatathil <3
Macy Davis
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Somehow I missed reviewing this when I read it early this semester. This was one of my favorite reads. I really enjoyed Nezhukumatathil's words and got to meet and do a writing conference with her and it was lovely. Overall phenomenal!
Twila Newey
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I started loving every poem, but they lost momentum for me near the end of the book. Still, this is such an effusive, life-affirming collection of poems I would recommend it to anyone. She clearly loves language and loves to play. I will certainly pick up her other work when I need a lift.
Erika
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, poc-author, poetry
I am a fairly new reader of poetry and I loved this collection. I especially loved the poems that included lots of imagery of the natural world and it's watery inhabitants. I read a couple of poems every morning with coffee and it was a beautiful way to start the day.
Alana
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
"I have been studying the word home
as if studying for a quiz, trying to guess
answers to questions before they are asked."
Roxanne
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2018
This BOOK! Could not stop reading. Graceful, lovely, inspiring of many feelings. The "Self Portrait As..." poems in particular made me, as a poet, wonder how the heck she DID that. Both thumbs up over here.
Emily Shearer
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This summer, my son told me his favorite word was "oceanic." I worked it into a poem. Nezhukumatathil has worked it into a whole beautiful book. Self-portraits, found poems, even a sexy love poem called "Starfish and Coffee" after the Prince song by the same name. I heard her read some of these at AWP and to read them on the page makes her perfect, scallop-edged voice come back alive inside my head. Her poetry could do this even if you've never been lucky [fish] enough to hear her in person. (If ...more
Maria Reads
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think Aimee is a wonderful person, and there are many aspects of her writing that I enjoy. Without a doubt her writing is full of cheer, wonder, and joy. However, I found myself kinda bored with this collection. I tend to favor poets that write with risk, and urgency, so for me this is lacking a bit. There's no sense of immediacy here. These poems are fun, and happy, but if you're looking for something more meaningful, this may not be for you. Also, I get bored with poetry collections that ...more
Jonathan Tennis
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked Lucky Fish and At the Drive-in Volcano more but this collection contains a lot of the aspects I enjoy about Nezhukumatathil’s poetry. Colorful imagery, distant places, what it’s like to be different in a sea of homogeneity and most importantly, love. She writes one helluva a love poem. My favorite poems in the collection were On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance, Two Moths, In the Museum of Glass Flowers, The Pepper Kingdom, One-Star Reviews of the Taj Mahal, and One-Star Reviews ...more
Neyda
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored Aimee's collection of poems and am excited to see how others are moved by our natural world as much as I am. What a gift!
Danielle
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Lovely to read this book with the sun on my face. So much delicious here.
xTx xTx
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lovely. As poetry should be
BooksRgood
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
wonderfully enjoyable poems of the earth and the ocean and how great they are yet still pale relative to the joy we can find in our loves and our bodies:

LETTER TO THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The light here on earth keeps us plenty busy: a fire
in central Pennsylvania still burns bright since 1962.

Whole squads of tiny squid blaze up the coast of Japan
before sunrise. Of course you didn’t show when we went

searching for you, but we found other lights: firefly,
strawberry moon, a tiny catch of it in each other
...more
Wyrd Witch
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4.5 stars.

Considering the abundance of nature poetry, it takes a lot for me to read a collection so centered around natural wonders, even if it's the sea. But Aimee Nezhukumatathil excels in this book. My God, her poetry makes me want to submerge myself in the water, spread my arms upon the sand, and wiggle like the starfish I have touched in the museum.

Often, the poems aren't just about nature but center themselves around the narrator's experiences, family life, love, the atmosphere of a
...more
Spencer
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nezhukumatathil's Oceanic reads like a secret collection of love letters: to the sea, to the sun, to love itself. Devouring her poetry (and you will devour) you can't not feel the warm ocean breeze, hear the waves, taste the salt. She takes your hand through the pages and dares you not to run away with her. And who can resist? Her passion is palpable, her energy contagious, her brilliance blinding. So sensuous, so electric, so moving. Tidal. Loved every single poem more than the one before. My ...more
Tara
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
These fluid and accomplished poems circle in surprising ways around and back to the natural world. They focus minutely, yet taken as a whole, their scope is broad and deep. Oceanic, even.

I was often unsure exactly what was happening in these poems. They weave a complex tapestry that's not always understandable when you're up close. They contain allusions to many items, customs, and ideas I was unfamiliar with. I found that I needed to read slowly, look things up, re-read, put the book down for a
...more
David Jordan
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another work of sparkling poetic brilliance (full disclosure: Aimee is my favorite poet) that deserves a spot on every poetry lover's shelf and a space in every language lover's heart. This book is an immensely pleasurable read filled with impeccably crafted verse inspired by nature: our world and all the creatures that inhabit it, including you and me. It is difficult to describe how much I enjoyed this particular volume. I can't wait to begin giving these out as gifts soon.
When is your
...more
Anna
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Glorious, sparkling, deep, beautiful. Nezhukumatathil does it again, using each poem to weave a story, pulling the reader in by alternating a spareness and lushness of verse in a way that's entirely masterful. From a monologue of a woman sitting for a portrait to a runner-up in a bee-wearing contest to a POV from a cockroach to Andromache pleading with Hector, each piece is glorious in its ability to stand alone and also breathe together as part of one big storyline about water, creation, love, ...more
Courtney LeBlanc
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A collection of poems that weave the ocean, sea life, and animals into larger themes such as love, motherhood and identity.

from The Body (my favorite poem in the collection): "Maybe I just want to rid myself // of knuckles so I can't knock on the door you now share / with another... See how / I accidentally brought you up again / when I picked up this nail, this hammer?"

from Chess: "Exactly four different men have tried / to teach me how to play. I could never / tell the difference between a
...more
Michael P.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I often struggle to articulate why I do or do not like a book of poetry, and the struggle continues here. After reading the first half-dozen poems, I thought I might love this book. Deeper in, there were three I did not read to the end, several that seem to be about unrevealing trifles, and many that I like well enough, but did not love. Is this a defect in the poet, or am I not able to access the wonder of her work? I cannot tell.
Ian C. Williams
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I have read few books that I have savored and enjoyed as much as this one, and none that I have finished and then have immediately wanted to start again. Nezhukumatathil's poems are poignant and vivid, and they have left me with such a range of feeling and ideas. These poems are excellent, and if this collection does not appear on each of the numerous Best Poetry Collections of 2018 lists at the end of this year, it will be a disservice. I can't recommend this collection enough.
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author of four collections of poetry, most recently, OCEANIC (Copper Canyon, 2018). Book of nature essays forthcoming with Milkweed Editions. Professor of English and Glitter, University of Mississippi.
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“Aubade with Cutlery and Crickets"

In the dinner I cook for myself tonight,
you are an open drawer of cutlery.

I've smelled the top notes of butter knives
at your shoulder, the tang hidden in the blade

of your walk. I need a serving spoon
to scoop dal into a cool ceramic, a fork

with tines long enough to pierce the skin
of the butternut squash roasted

in honeyjuice. Even your hands
have become a kind of instrument—

delicate enough to slide crabmeat
out of the shell, sturdy enough to crack

a breastbone if need be. Or maybe what
I smelled that morning still full of starlight

and crickets when we said goodbye—
was the clean coolness of a knife's ricasso,

the flat rest for a thumb just before
the blade disappears into its handle.”
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