Linguistically fluid and geographically expansive, Nathalie Handal’s Life in a Country Album is a haunting hymn of shapeshifting. Intimate and political at once, it is composed from a palette that comprises brief revelations, such as Tendresse: A Testament as well as expansive meditations like American Camino, in which she asks, “So what if some hyphenate, and others don’t?” This question of belonging lies at the heart of Life in a Country Album: who gets to decide who belongs? Can you be exiled from your own sense of self, or as Nathalie puts it in Europa Nostra, “Now that we are guests in our bodies, how do we survive?” One of the remarkable things about this collection is how our current global geopolitics can alter how it is read: an ill-reasoned airstrike and the sense of a safe home becomes precarious. If a bed is a city of teeming dreams then this collection is a world of human possibilities. In its clarity, craft and chimeric language, it is a love letter and admonition mailed by the same stamp. In this, her seventh collection, Nathalie reaffirms that she remains an urgent and singular voice in contemporary poetry.
“It’s simply poetry that doesn’t quit moving. It tells a story. It’s water, it shimmers.” – Eileen Myles; “Life in a Country Album reminds me of the irresistible spare stylization of French New Wave cinema. I love how the desire and longing running through these poems reaches me via the collection’s many voices and cityscapes, and–most poignantly–via the borders between bodies, nations and hearts. Absolutely gorgeous.” – Tracy K. Smith; “In odes to the Francophone diaspora and Mediterranean crisis or in vibrant celebration of American complexity, Nathalie Handal illuminates the luxuriance and longing of deracination. A contemporary Orpheus, she hymns our most urgent and ineffable truths; her poems sing.” – Claire Messud