Kell's Reviews > Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines

Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines by Natalie Wee
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bookshelves: poetry, feminism-gender, bipoc

This would be a good collection for someone new to poetry, affected by loneliness or mental illness, someone who likes the style and concepts of slam poetry, or a youngish reader / writer looking for inspiration or something to relate to in their own life. These poems are all a combination of a small cauldron of ideas, often used in similar ways again and again:

fire + knife + desire + flight + shadow + fruit + grave + reversal + bruise + heart + teeth + salt water / tides + alone

Wee has some striking, original lines, but, though the collection has a strong sense of the personal, her emotions are often contained within common metaphors or lose their grounding in comparisons that are too little explained for the reader to follow. Wee has a great potential, but this collection feels like it's on the way to something, rather than having reached its goal. Some lines that show Wee's heart and talent:

the city lights fell away like fields of grain/ bent under wind

un/ -earthing myself each time/ I kneel into a dream where I/ am good & loved.

All we know of belonging/ is keeping hand to escape pod.

Tongue unspooling the alphabet of distress/ signals past.

you are the wreckage,/ you are the fire &/ you are also holding an axe/
which is all to say/ that you are trying to save yourself/ from yourself.

—J.J. Espinoza, Rupi Kaur, Mitski (I am the forest, I am the fire, I am the witness watching it), and now Natalie Wee all have lines about being both [forest] fire and the burning thing. Cataloguing this for an essay or a theory about female identity, strength and destruction.

being with yourself/ when running with your eyes closed is/ the closest you will ever be to flight./ No matter the perils of wax or water./ You want to remember you're flesh/ the way anything with wings rises most/ in a fire. You want to be filled—if only/ by light.
—I love Icarus references that have to do with depression and (loneliness and) youth. Intentional recklessness.

The poems I felt best expressed Wee's intent, and used her chosen images well:
(I) Mirror
Letters from Persephone*
Enough to Leave*
Blue Moon*
On Average
Close Encounters
(II) Statistically Speaking - made into trees, lumber, fire, continuing…
(III) Therapy Talk
The Best Thing I Ever Invented
Said the Apple to the Girl - better on a sad day
Coming of Age - (?) "reckless thrashing"

We can be sun-bodied / arrows in flight,/ uncomplicated/ & necessary.
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