Scorch by Natalie Rice

Scorch is a thin, unassuming volume I’ve had for far longer than I should have before reading and reviewing it (I hope Natalie Rice, the author, and Gaspereau Press will forgive me). It travelled to Miramichi, where it fell into my hands, and then it was placed in a special bag of books to return to Nova Scotia with me. I say it’s unassuming because it is a small book, easy to tuck into a shelf or pile. But it’s also got a dull orange colour, enough to stand out but also not, reminding you of the vibrance of its title. Scorch is a fierce call to readers, inviting us to look unflinchingly at what we’ve done to nature, and what remains for us to pick up and explore anew.

Rice’s poems in this collection are direct in their tone, looking to excavate what happened and what’s next, switching from the wonder of nature to the lamentation of what we’ve done to these lands. Rice also wonders at how we relate to them: the collection opens with Rice marvelling at the idea of mountaineering, comparing herself to those who climb to the top. Other poems start with an image before careening into the destruction of the environment. In “In the Hallway,” Rice writes,

I sleep
on my own in a room
with two doors.
I haven’t slept alone
in seven years.

This moment leads her to her memory, which goes from two days prior to a more distant memory of a forest fire, where the heat prickled her back in the same way her back prickled two days before. Rice links disparate moments, these small slices of life, with the bigger, more troubling climate change events.

Scorch is a collection which demands our attention on the world we have created, the ways we have alienated ourselves from the land, and the moments we could let ourselves back in if only we tried. The individual poems are also longer than one might expect for a collection this length, which gives the overall collection a very smooth flow. Scorch is a thoughtful collection of poems, and one that I wish I had gotten to before now — but much like Rice’s warnings about climate change and environmental degradation, we can still change, and it’s never too late to read the poems of Scorch.

Natalie Rice is the author of the chapbook 26 Visions of Light (2020). Her poems have also appeared in journals such as The TrumpeterEvent MagazineThe Dalhousie ReviewThe Malahat Review and Contemporary Verse 2. She currently lives in Kelowna, BC.

Publisher: Gaspereau Press (April 19, 2023)
Paperback 8″ x 5″ | 80 pages
ISBN: 9781554472499

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Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.

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