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Apr 1, 2024

on the value of rereading books

Books have been my constant companions from as far back as I can remember. I am an only child, and I lived six hours away from the rest of my extended family growing up. I spent a lot of time entertaining myself as a child by reading, and I developed close bonds with my books. Books were my steadfast company and friends, and I have always felt happiest surrounded by them.


Of course, I am open to making new friends and to the new experiences that come along with them, but I also cherish my old friends and welcome their visits. When I reread a book, it often feels like a reunion, and I learn something new about this friend and my appreciation grows. 


When thinking of poetry and lineage, I think of a book that I reread each summer. It  feels like a poem because it invokes the senses so strongly. This book is Perfume by Patrick Süskind. It is the novel I have read the most times as an adult, and I wrote a poem for theVERSEVerse called “I Saw You” that is inspired by this book, my first encounter with it, and my experience reading and rereading it. This book takes me back to 1997 in Aix-en-Provence, France, each time I read it, which was a very special time in my life. I was studying abroad between my junior and senior years of college, and also beginning to come to terms with my queerness. I was infatuated with this woman who had a copy of Perfume, and the speaker of the poem takes a few liberties when describing this time and this woman, as poets are allowed to do.


Because I am a poet, I feel inclined to use this space to tell you about the poetry book I have read the most times as an adult, which is Ariel by Sylvia Plath. I turn to this book again and again for its music and imagery. I also mention this book and poet because I wrote another poem for theVERSEverse called “Poem for Sylvia Plath.” This poem is epistolary and is meant to tell Sylvia all the things I wish she could be alive to hear, including how important she is to modern poetry. My obsession with Sylvia Plath has recently found its way into a novel I have coming out this summer called Julie, or Sylvia, but I digress.  


Rereading books for me is like spending time with an old friend—the kind of friend in whose company I pick right up where we left off, even if we haven’t spoken in a while. We likely have both grown in some way since we last spoke, and our lived experiences may change the type of conversation we have with each other. Each visit adds a new, exciting element to our relationship, and we continue to evolve together through space and time. 

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“I Saw You” is presented in collaboration with May Naibo and exhibited in theVERSEverse’s SuperRare Genesis Gallery. “Poem for Sylvia Plath” is presented in collaboration with Brook Getachew. curated by Linda Dounia.


Nicole Tallman is a poet, writer, and editor. Born and raised in Michigan, she lives in Miami and serves as the official Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County, Editor of Redacted Books, Poetry and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Reviewan Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journaland a reader for The Los Angeles Review. She is the author of Something Kindred and Poems for the People (The Southern Collective Experience (SCE) Press), and FERSACE (ELJ Editions).


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