The Wild Essential


Title: The Wild Essential
Writer: Claudine Nash
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kelsay Books
Publishing Date: 2017
Language: English
Price: USD 14.00
Reviewed by: Melissa A. Chappell

The Wild Essential is Claudine Nash’s second full-length poetry collection. It is preceded by her poetry collection, Parts per Trillion (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a poetry chapbook, The Problem with Loving Ghosts (Finishing Line Press, 2014).

The Wild Essentialbeckonshumanity to return to its roots in the natural world. In the eponymous poem“The Wild Essential,” Nash writes: “…peel away these labels / one letter at a time until / you see nothing but the / wild essential beneath.” Labels are the norm for society. Boxes are the status quo. We are expected to bear labels and fit squarely in boxes all of our lives. But what is essential in us was not made for labels or boxes. Our essential selves are our core selves, the bare substance of our identities. And Nash posits that an honest look at this self will reveal that it is unruly, wild, and does not easily fit into society’s boxes; labels will not adhere to its skin. In “Unname me,” she writes: “Now bathe / me in light / until I grow / my own meaning.”

Nash’s writing is critical at this time for our society. In so many ways our culture is divorced from nature. Our blissful ignorance of climate change is example enough of the painful schism between the human race and the trajectory upon which our planet travels. Individuals suffer this schism with the natural order because we fail to understand its healing power. Frequently the author uses the image of “field” such as in the poem “Magnolias”: “…I find / myself home / in fields I / have never / and always / known, to / which each / and every / turn, / I return.” Fields are places where one can be taciturn and self-reflective. Perhaps society needs such a place of refreshment, in the midst of all its stagnant news cycles, political machinations and glaring fashion statements. Here, the field serves as a beautiful metaphor for wholeness and the cycles of life and death that replenish those who love the field.

Nash also bears out “the wild essential” by writing about oneness with the created order: “A river rock sits in you, / no, a rock face, no, / a mountain, yes…” (“You Are A Mountain”). Our strength comes not from what our culture tells us, because our culture tells us that illusory strength is reliant on the illusory power of our culture. Our oneness with the natural world assists us in bearing up this mountain within ourselves, gathering our own strength, and discovering empowerment that is real and authentic and not based on the house of cards that is offered to us by our wayward culture. This theme of oneness weaves itself throughout the book. Once again, the society which experiences separateness from the natural order, contributes to the weakness of its own awareness of its true self; Nash writes in “Unbecoming”:

I shall allow

the universe to pour

into its most

miniscule cells

and spin inside.

With any luck

all this whirling

and light-tossing

will create a vastness

that will dislodge

the truest parts of me.

Oneness in relationship is also a theme as she communicates it in long, simple, and profound sentences. In “Anatomy of a Moment,” Nash writes:

Should I ever slip

and split open

I am certain

that this stream

of light

that is


its way

around you

would spill

from my skin…

I no doubt

would see


tall grass and

your hands


a patch

of wild


There is no “other” for Nash in here. It is a light shared, and it is a harvest shared. And from “Blue Moon”: “… as our true voices rise / with this rare moon / let’s look deliberately / at each other / and see a seamlessness / roll between.”

In a world that struggles to understand that there is no “other,” just “one,” Nash’s book is a necessary word for anyone in our day who senses the underlying brokenness and longs for these words, which are a crucible for healing.

Nash’s writing is simple, yet the author knows well the fathoms of the human spirit and is an able guide for the reader.

It is not unlike the sun shining, that “…hit(s) us at such an angle / that all the rocks and / stones and soil in us shift / to reveal / a glowing landscape….” (“Blue Moon”).

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Melissa Chappell’s first chapbook is Rivers and Relics and Other Poems (Desert Willow Press, 2018). Her newest, Light, Refracted (Finishing Line Press), will be published this year.


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