Debut Poetry Collection from Seattle Poet Rachel Edelman.
"What do I know of exile?" asks the speaker in DEAR MEMPHIS, standing inside the colliding geographies and intimate economies of the American South. Offering a direct address to the city where the poet grew up, this collection explores the displacement and belonging of a Jewish family in Memphis, Tennessee, alongside their histories of community and environment. The simultaneous richness and spareness of Edelman’s poems sing with their attention to the particular body and what it cannot carry, what it cannot put down. Through letters, visual art, city documents, and dialogue, DEAR MEMPHIS excavates ancestry, inheritance, and the ecological possibility of imagining a future.
Poetry. Art. Family & Relationships. Jewish Studies. Women's Studies.
“Braided within and across the primary subjects of Rachel Edelman’s powerful DEAR MEMPHIS—diaspora, racial and social injustice, family, place—is an ongoing meditation on the complexities of memory. On the paradox of memory, which like a road map of a city one no longer lives in, holds absence and presence simultaneously. There, in the re-envisioned past, are the legends and landmarks and intersections of time. Here, through lyrics enriched by Edelman’s vivid imagery and distinctive music, is timelessness. ‘Beneath what I see is what I know,’ she writes. DEAR MEMPHIS is testament to the vastness of that knowledge.”
“Rachel Edelman’s DEAR MEMPHIS is a kind of modern-day Exodus, offering haunting lyric poems that evoke experiences of dispersal and diaspora. A white Jewish woman with deep roots in Memphis, Edelman speaks searingly of ‘what she knows of the South’ and its racial history, one in which she is uneasily embedded. Whether arriving out of personal, biblical, historical, or political stories of migration, Edelman’s poems are piercingly self-aware. This is a work of moving lamentation, undergirded by the poet’s sustained interest in exposing and trying to hold opposing truths: ‘the country where I am / is the country I abandoned.’”
“In DEAR MEMPHIS, Rachel Edelman probes the shifting meaning of the intersection of whiteness and Jewishness in the US South. Refusing the romance of suffering, these poems enter the terrain of ongoing struggle that is history and insist that there is nothing inherently liberatory about having been oppressed. Where white Jewish accumulation takes place alongside entrenched anti-Blackness, what might the intergenerational trauma of antisemitism mean for the possibilities of solidarity? Punctuated with epistolary poems, Edelman’s searching text recalls that to address is to traverse a distance and seek a closeness, that reckoning is a profound intimacy, that to leave is also the condition of return. ‘Who did I choose / when I wished myself elsewhere?’ Edelman asks. Holding to the possibility of transformation in encounter, DEAR MEMPHIS shimmers with the difficult work of love.”
Rachel Edelman is a Jewish poet raised in Memphis, Tennessee whose writing explores diasporic living. Dear Memphis, their debut collection of poems, will be published by River River Books in 2024. Her poems have appeared in Narrative, The Seventh Wave, The Threepenny Review, West Branch, and many other journals. They have received material support from City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Academy of American Poets, Mineral School, Crosstown Arts, and Tin House and finalist commendations from the Adrienne Rich Award, the Pink Poetry Prize, and the National Poetry Series. Edelman earned a BA in English and geology from Amherst College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She teaches Language Arts in the Seattle Public Schools, where embodiment and care root her personal, poetic, and pedagogical practice.