Nathaniel Bek’s collection of poems Atrophy of the boy who became a wishing well is a powerful convening of brave introspection, unwavering honesty and unapologetic healing. The collection fearlessly interrogates themes like loss, coming of age and father figures amongst others. The collection holds a confessional reverence and tears deeply into toxic masculinity, what it means to truly love and the strength it takes to make the decision to stay on a daily basis. In TRUTH IS A GHOST OF OUR SPEECH” Bek considers ‘Have you ever held love / It is a delicate wild of thorns / We all want to chase after this pain / Make a garden of everything we know / But we are all untamed and edgeless / Trying to make a sensible thing of this’. It is this ‘untamed and edgeless’ nature that is consistently investigated throughout this collection.
In “BODY OF WATER” Bek discusses the bravery of choosing to live – ‘I too have named death home / There are days I wish to reside there…/ But depression and suicide are easier to / Talk about in metaphors and silence’. This examination continues in poems like “A WHISTLE IN THE TUB DRUMS” where bravery is defined as ‘an act of courage can be as simple as / Another morning’. It is this close examination that is so desperately needed in these times we find ourselves living in, on the heels of a continuing pandemic and a growing mental health crisis- Bek unflinchingly examines the things that truly make us human and the deeper parts of ourselves that connect us to each other better than sometimes our surfaces can.
Amongst the uncovering of our human nature’s darkness, hope shines brightly in the pages of Bek’s collection as he encourages the reader in “THE NIGHT BARKS BACK” – ‘don’t give into this and all that rests behind the door / Leave it / And let it be what it’s always been / Unknown’. This is a collection I highly recommend reading to anyone that has known loss, pain or struggle. I would particularly recommend this to readers that have experienced trauma and have chosen to hold on and stay- this collection is a powerfully beautiful love song to our most intimate humanity reminding us in my favorite poem of the collection “GERMINATION” that ‘’we are all a gathering of things we can’t control from our past’ / ‘We are all human’ / ‘Flawed but oh so alive.”
Noelia Cerna is a Costa Rican poet based in Northwest Arkansas. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in Missouri. Her writing has been published in audio form in Terse Journal, The Revolution [Relaunch], The North Meridian Review, the Plants and Poetry Journal, the Abantu Radio blog and Voices de la Luna.
Noelia is a reader and poetry feedback editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, an assistant poetry editor for Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, an associate editor for Sibling Rivalry Press, an editor for Nomadic Press, a poetry genre editor for Patchwork Lit Mag, a writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship Program and a recent recipient of the PEN America L’Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, the board president and director of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective. Keep up with her work, readings and publications at www.noeliacerna.com