In Zeller’s first book, Rust Fish, a young woman has a conversation with the succulent natural world. They speak of the endless summers of youth, the sober winters of the Pacific Northwest, the violence of children, and the benign neglect that nature offers even its acolytes. Throughout the book, fish are this speaker’s consorts. Fish, both real and imagined, stream through these poems, past the various totems of working class poverty to the inevitable sea. Zeller asks many big questions in quiet, sly ways in this wonder-full book. How can a person live in such a gorgeous and difficult world? How can the sensual redeem us? Which is the bruise that heals? Which is the one that stays?
—Connie Voisine, author of Cathedral of the North
Maya Zeller’s American Northwest is a land of verdant sensuality, insistent yet fragile and intimate as it was in the eyes of Roethke, storied in mossy and weathered details, human ruin and hard won grace as it was in the heart of Kesey. With extraordinary veracity and empathy she inhabits the body and emerging consciousness of a girl and young woman alive to the lives around her. There are poetry books with the power to move poets, fewer poetry books with the power to move lovers of literature, and those rare poetry books with the power to move just about anyone else. Rust Fish is all three.
—Jonathan Johnson, author of Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood and Mastodon, 80% Complete
In the small room of the self, the imaginative child looks out, wishing up the world. Visitors—beetles, “each back opening and closing on itself,” smelt, flood plain, river, even the “rust fish,” bronze statues, now rusted, of salmon in the public place—transform her and are transformed in her presence. The imagination, however, does not trade in illusion. Locals like herself know the “sea smell” the tourists come for is really the rotting corpse of a seal, know the red room she has been locked in is not a dream. In this book of poems infused with magic cadences, Maya Zeller spells the damaged world into sparkle again.
—Melissa Kwasny, author of Thistle and Reading Novalis in Montana
Reviews of Rust Fish:
“Fish, whether of flesh or of metal, whether swimming or rusting, are never far from the heart of these poems. The acceptance and instruction of the natural world portends and finally fulfills the acceptance of self as a part of it, providing a bridge to the bewildering world of our own species.”–Debrah Lechner, Hayden’s Ferry Review (read the full review here).
Read a review by Shannon Wagner of Ploughshares at their blog.
Read a short review by poet Shira Richman at Bark
Check out this blog about Rust Fish by fiction writer Christine Nicolai: onmyhonoriwilltry
Read a review of Rust Fish by Knockout Literary Magazine editor Brett Ortler at Bark
Nonfiction writer Ana Maria Spagna recommends Rust Fish on her blog.
Interviews & Conversations:
“I’m not sure I could do a bee dance—you know, how they return to the hive and dance out directions on where to find the pollen/flowers—but if I could, this book would be it.” –on Yesterday, the Bees (Read the full interview at Speaking of Marvels)
“The speaker in [Yesterday, the Bees], who is largely informed by my own autobiographical arc, thinks a lot about the ways that birth is a natural process, children are natural outcomes, but we are still an invasive species. It navigates that with naturalized plants. The plants are these nonhuman things in this natural world that collide and offer something to that world that I can’t. I can’t pollinate. I can’t assist a bee in bringing that . . . back to its hive.” (Read the full conversation at the Bellingham Review blog)
“I feel about rivers something like the way the philosopher Heraclitus did: that the river is able to exist, to be (the way a poem must “be”), because the water in that river keeps changing. ” (Read the full interview at Pank)
“I often work in verse forms, and prose allows a different sort of letting out and reigning in. I like to move back and forth between genres. Right now, I’m interested in medical intervention in birth, especially for mothers who plan otherwise, and prose forms are serving that dialogue well.” (Read more of this January 2016 Contributor Spotlight for the Bellingham Review (a mini-interview): here).
Read a conversation on landscape’s role in poetry between Maya and poet Laura Read at centrum.org