Otolith — the ear stone — is a series of bones that help us to orient ourselves in space. In Otolith, Emily Nilsen attempts a similar feat in poetry: to turn the reader's attention to their relationship to the world, revealing an intertidal state between the rootedness of place and the uncertainty and tenuousness of human connection. Born in the fecundity of British Columbia's coastal rainforest, these poems are full of life and decay; they carry the odours of salmon rivers and forests of fir; salal growing in the fog-bound mountain slopes.
This astonishing debut, at once spare and lush, displays an exquisite lyricism built on musical lines and mature restraint. Nilsen turns over each idea carefully, letting nothing escape her attention and saying no more than must be said. Combining a scientist's precision and a poet's sensitivity, Otolith examines the ache of nostalgia in the relentless passage of time.
"Spend enough time at a remote research station, suggests Emily Nilsen, and you, too, will identify fifty different species of fog. In Otolith, Nilsen’s poems measure all that environmental science cannot: the alignment of a tree planter’s sensibility to charred forest, the geolocation of grief. Wake before dawn and follow Nilsen’s ‘solitary, rugged route’ into our fragile ecology."
"Otolith challenges the idea that madness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. With metaphors and imagery as wild as the ecologies she encounters, Emily Nilsen shows that repeating the same question can yield multiple answers: Otolith’s world is not static, won’t hold still for its photograph, doesn’t sit pretty. And this is its virtue."
"Otolith is a house built by gravity and movement, at once weighty and ephemeral. These poems are fogged in and present, placed and displaced. Nilsen is a poet of the interstitial, of longing, of the sensitive shift itself."