I Won't Begin Again
April 7, 2023
Winner of the 2021 Burnside Review Press Book Award, selected by Sommer Browning.
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Nathaniel Rosenthalis’ first book, I Won’t Begin Again (Burnside Review Press, 2023), was selected by Sommer Browning as the winner of the 2021 Burnside Review Press Book Award. He is the author of several chapbooks, including 24 Hour Air ([PANK] Books, 2021), as well as two forthcoming books: The Leniad (Broken Sleep Books, 2023) and Father Figures (Broken Sleep Books, 2024). He lives in New York City, where he works as an actor and a singer.
“They say timing is everything. I can’t remember what they say that about. Romance? Language? In Nathaniel Rosenthalis’ I Won’t Begin Again, timing is everything is true for just about everything. From mis-overhearing small profundities on the street to ‘the motion of coming down a stair’ Rosenthalis shows that our inescapable timelines are beautiful and lonely and funny. In ‘A Ten-Minute Moment’ he slows time and guides us through that sparkling carelessness with which we first turn over an hourglass to the antsy loss we feel watching the last grain of sand fall to the bottom. He writes with an easy, abstract humor: ‘I am often,’ he says in a poem called ‘On Where I’m Not Supposed to Exist.’ He writes with a boundarylessness between the ‘I’ and all that is outside it: ‘A newspaper blows across the hardwood floor, making me want to be held. I write down “Behold.”’ These poems highlight the way the world works its constant absurdity and they help us feel okay when we realize we work that same way. A dangerous desire, love, and intimacy ripple through the poems: ‘how / hot it was when // he slammed what / a door had been, for him. / Into me.’ I get that. Damn do I get that—to feel most alive when loved and loving. It stops the clock for a moment.”
“‘My devotion, after all / is that I even got up,’ says Nathaniel Rosenthalis, belying the title of his mesmerizing debut, I Won’t Begin Again. For, in poem after poem, Rosenthalis argues for—and enacts—resilience in a world where doubt can seem ‘the architecture of the moment.’ ‘Not fantasizing, not hoping, was error also,’ and indeed these poems resist the world’s (and the self’s) instability by noticing the least detail (‘it was like / resistance // to notice, so / I did. And do’) but through a teetering of vision: a green wall is ‘millionly leafy,’ the sun ‘crumples one random can,’ which is to say that the poems are acts of reinvention, of reimagining life’s possibilities. Philosophical, surreal in the tradition of Rimbaud’s Illuminations, and slyly erotic, I Won’t Begin Again is finally a triumph of emotion, what Rosenthalis defines as ‘putting yourself over another / to make a different sense.’ I feel changed by these poems—powerfully so, gratefully.”
“A poetics of localized intense being—no, a poetics of intensive being, localized at one point to ‘an arm movement whose flipside is my tender wrist,’ at another to ‘a tiara floating.’ Nathaniel Rosenthalis writes less of what one does daily and more of what one is, the thus of what one is, distilled, malty, vialed up—then spilled. OK. I love these poems; that’s simpler to say but doesn’t get at the ‘deadpan glamor’ of this poet’s very particular kind of (un)canny—it’s both—grammar and mordant enjambment (‘Be redundant / to a shamefastness / you were // made real through’) which, enthralled, I heed.”