|BROADSTONE BOOKS announces
|Publication Date: December 15, 2019
Paperback, 88 pages
Booksellers: Available from
Small Press Distribution
Born in Detroit, Nancy Botkin earned a BA
in English from Michigan State University
and a Master of Liberal Studies from Indiana
University South Bend. Her first full-length
poetry collection, Parts That Were Once
Whole (2007), included “Poem With Light
and Dark,” which won the Maize First Place
Poetry Prize sponsored by the Writers’
Center of Indiana. Her poetry has been
published in former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted
Kooser's column, “American Life in Poetry.”
Botkin’s work has been published in various
journals such as Poetry, Poetry East, the
Laurel Review, and the American Literary
Review. She is currently a senior lecturer in
the English department at Indiana University
South Bend, where she has been teaching
since 1991. She will soon retire from
teaching to devote more time to poetry, art,
travel, and her grandson.
There is something wondrously imponderable about the title of Nancy Botkin’s latest
poetry collection: the next infinity. What would that be like, the something that
comes after everything? After negotiating one’s way through religion, through the
legacy and loss of parents, through a past receding “small and dim” as the memories
of scratchy songs on a AM car radio, through moments fleeting like “ice cream
melting faster than we could eat it.”
These poems offer some intimations, but only after beginning with a couple of
deceptively lighthearted meditations on the slipperiness of language, “skin” replacing
“spin” (as in “the bottle”), and “right angels” slipping past the spellchecker to turn
geometry into theology. “There are layers and layers / in misspellings,” Botkin
observes, as there are in life, and much of this collection proceeds through the peeling
away of such layers. Such as:
“An autopsy of infinity would uncover a bare, stripped down field.” That’s a pretty
austere outlook, and it pervades many of the poems here.
We all have bodies, so someone gets the camera:
the family in front of the new car.
Someone has to pack all of it into that tiny frame.
Such a compelling image: the fact of our having bodies almost incidental, an occasion
to mark like a new car, so much crowded into a fleeting instant.
At another point she observes, “I’m starting to wonder if I’m in this poem / all by
myself.” A bit later, in the same poem, she asks “if we are keepers of our own
asylum.” By unpacking the experience of radical isolation in such unflinching terms,
Botkins reveals how we are each our own infinity. And because we share this, we
are not so alone after all.
It’s a lot to think about, and at times she acts as if she’d rather not:
My brain is even less inviting
when it’s wild with dark birds flitting
through its spangled hallways.
Perhaps less inviting to Botkin, but it is a blessing to her readers who join with those
birds flitting through the hallway of her rich imagination.
The final image of the book is a cosmic parlor trick, and perhaps that is all life is. And
if so, these poems assure us, that’s enough.
Praise for Nancy Botkin & The Next Infinity
“If I could just see the inside of my head. // If I could harvest the mind’s flutter,”
muses Nancy Botkin in her stunning new collection, The Next Infinity. These
remarkable poems explore the speaker’s early religious life, loss of her mother, and
challenges of what it means to be more present and awake. But they don’t wallow;
as she writes, “I say this life is hard, but we can’t set up a trading post for grief.”
These poems transform loss and regret into generative vision, casting them as only
part of what it means to become more fully human. Botkin knows “You can’t stop
the whirring, the endless circles,” that “That’s the difficulty of this Earth” yet is wise
enough to seek redemption in the human capacity to speak the toughening truths of
the tongue: “Beautiful telescoping of a tongue / where innumerable stars wink / along
the untamed ocean of flesh. // Impossible to avoid all the broken glass / hidden in the
sand, but carry on dancing. // Carry on fumbling in the dark.” And carry on she does,
bringing us with her. This is one of the most genuine, engaging collections I have read
in some time. With imagistic brilliance and stirring associative leaps, Nancy Botkin
maps for us possibilities of living more wholly in the ever-widening moment of “the
—George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016)
These poems brilliantly capture the joys, quotidian miseries, and terrors of living
in human bodies and minds in the swirling midst of every kind of hunger, of
mortality and infinity. Sensual, funny, witty, Botkin delights and surprises on
every page. I want to spend more time with this poet capable of such alchemy,
“an autopsy of infinity” and “the rain fell like feathers/on the silver casket.” When
I step into the abyss, I want these poems to hold my hand.
—April Ossmann, author of Event Boundaries