East Bay poet’s debut collection set at the intersection of natural splendor and trauma

September 13, 2023

“Eggtooth,” Jesse Nathan’s debut poetry collection, is alert to the wonderful and terrible things that happen beneath our feet. 

In a poem titled “In a Churchyard After Dark, with Ruth,” friends “lounge in a burr oak’s buttress-root couch.” In “Between States,” the “grass sea” of the 19th century Midwest is stolen from Indigenous Americans. In “Boy With Thorns,” a locust tree’s spike — “evolved to ward off long gone / mammoths” — pierces “my plantar fascia’s rivers / of tissue.” 

Nathan’s ear for language and eye for the intersection of natural splendor and trauma are informed by his youth — he spent his teens on a Kansas farm — and by the long walks he took in recent years while living in San Francisco’s Sunset District. 

“I would just roam around Golden Gate Park, roam around out by Ocean Beach,” Nathan, who now lives in Oakland and teaches literature at UC Berkeley, told The Chronicle in a recent interview. 

San Francisco Chronicle