MIXTAPES is Rachael Crosbie’s Poetry Chapbook, published by ELJ Editions released this April. Rachael is the EIC and Founder of The Winnow Magazine, a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughter and Poetry Editor of Dollar Store Magazine. They have a MS in publishing from NYU and you can find their Poems in publications such as Re-Side, Cobra Milk, Lucky Pierre Zine, Wrongdoing Magazine and others.
I read Mixtapes five times before I wrote this Review(it only got better with every reading). While reading this chapbook I was going through a spell of dissociation following some trauma and in this book I found a kindred spirit, the poetic voice relatable in it’s stance of detached and distant reflection/recollection of the past. Moreover the format and mixtape concept accompanied by the spotify playlist is very nostalgia inducing and had me reminiscing about my father’s collection of cassettes with ghazals on them and our Sony radio cassette corder.
Mixtapes feels like sleep walking through a corridor of interconnected memories where nightmares bleed into reality, the Poems exist in a liminal atmosphere where dream fragments and memoria are deconstructed and reconstructed into reveries bordering on the frayed edges of consciousness. The perception of space and time is influenced by the speaker’s emotions and experiences at any given point. Like a Mixtape the chapbook has sides 1 and 2, each with eleven poems, which share the same core themes but are distinct in form and tone. All the Poems on this collection come together in beautiful harmony and compliment each other.
Side 1: You In Absentia views a past self in retrospect through a fogged pane of nostalgia and grief, memories appear distant and hazy and are laden with nightmares of loss and trauma like:
“when you swear ghosts appear to / almost warm / austere of unknowns.”
Abrupt enjambments, altered repetitions and virgule marked line-breaks lend the poems in Absentia the ability to haunt and shock at once, the reader is drawn in with visceral imagery and find themself face to face with personal ghosts for example:
“you were afraid / of the body manifesting you and you / manifesting in the body. / fevered fits shifted sweat to sickness / trapping you in this loop / where you woke up confused, choking / on a room cleaved by white.”
Dreams In Absentia and Nostalgia In Absentia are especially remarkable Poems in Side 1. The former is about coping with childhood trauma and abuse, one of the best Poems I’ve read about this topic, the language used is vivid, brutal and uncompromising such as “clawed out medieval and raw / like when you cut / yourself with mirrors / broken by hand, broken for / modern blood letting” and “you were handled / by older others who glitched / with predatory magic / who made you beg / to physically dissociate”. Nostalgia In Absentia explores childhood, gender and trauma, I adore the language used in this poem accompanied by the striking visual imagery: “lying in a hammock, a loose / womb of yarn and air, / safe where you played / pretend, tethered to warmth,” and “double-vision pirouetting like bodies animated by the visceral blaze of night”
In Side 2: The B-Sides the speaker is present and a confessional “I” is employed. The form and tone waver and display a wide range from prose poems, free verse, couplets and experimental to saudade while the themes are more focused on love, body, relationships and loss. Lipstick and Fish a poem about American girlhood, gender and body is one of my favourites on side 2, saturated in pink this poem perfectly captures the atmosphere of fear, confusion and curiosity which surrounds puberty, rediscovering ones changing body and sex. “But I was not a woman. A girl as she was. My body sprouted sparse hairs and raw pink buds.”
Some honourable mentions, poems that had me feeling nostalgic, teary eyed and longing for lost moments include “Looking For Directions In Two Parts”, “Saudade For When You’re Gone”, and “Apologia In Absentia”. Rachael is a master of pulling on your heartstrings and invoking nostalgia and yearning like a magician, let the following lines from Saudade be evidence:
“I searched everywhere for quarters,
To call you from the laundromat. You never answered.
So, I drove to the white sands,
Wind howling with specks of cold water.”
And consider these lines from Looking For Directions in Two Parts:
“a phantom touch from the last night slipping from your hands.
A glimpse of white rabbit twitched
in the background, in the field behind you”
Rachael has a pulse on the poetry and doesn’t shy away from displaying the range of their craft with imagery like “low pulse of wind textured by sleet”, “lichen grows in patches near ribbons of water”, “rabbits that won’t run, wolves that won’t chase. Pure halcyon, grace.”, “the day shed / in swathes of peplum purple dark, threads” and “a dying sun haloed copper on my hair”.
In Mixtapes you see their own uniquely personal take on themes of memory, dream, relationships, loss and trauma. Mixtapes is a perfect read for a dive in the past, while handling a breakup or if you want to experience heartache and longing amplified tenfold by gutting imagery that ushers in a dream-like state.
Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid