Nerves Between Song by Geoffrey Olsen


Poetry, 107 pgs.

With utmost sensitivity and attunement, Nerves Between Song records the subtle fluctuations of ambient registers pertaining to ecological conditions and social relations, including human and other-than-human interplay. Worldliness is represented in these poems as the quality and condition of meditative responsiveness to the phenomenal abundance of stimuli as it arises and dissipates across spectrums of difference and semblance. These poem sequences are a generous and generative offering, expanding and contracting with the pulse of life, giving and receiving perpetually. Nerves Between Song is an entrancing, multisensory evocation, gorgeously realized in all its facets.

Brenda Iijima

Geoffrey Olsen belongs to a small number of poets whose work responds to the “sacred contours” of experience. Overwhelmed by the “human orchestra” and its milieu of objectified communication, Nerves Between Song locates the lost soul of relief within the sonic laceration of utterance, in the very rending of the primeval instrument of sapienic power itself. Composing an end to the capitalist economies and ecological catastrophes that parse the “I” and infringe upon a “feeling across transitions,” or the collective dream of a world not gone to waste, Olsen’s spare and hesitant sentences are “skeletal” hinges swerving us to pallaksch landscapes of “radiant moss” and the “improvising play” of inner skies. In these stammering syntactical structures grow bouquets of “purple” poems revealing the bruise and “buzzing presences,” where ambient political urgency is given privilege, the absence of nouns points to universal displacement, assonance slips into associative rhythms, and silence again seizes—and is restored by—the “sensuous wish” for the startling delight of the senses. Nerves Between Song is a miraculous nocturne to a lacunary language singed with possibility and breached wide enough to make one weep at having reached, at last, the elusive center of themselves.

Jared Daniel Fagen

Geoffrey Olsen’s Nerves Between Song dwells within a deeply ecological ethos attentive to the myriad, blooming, cascading affinities that compose our richly social world. I encounter a “heard configuration spilling out, vivid / red, persistently.” I am reminded of poetry’s power as a field, transmission, and medium for psychological transformation. Geoffrey profoundly intuits how adaptation requires deep sensitivity to the interstices--the spaces in which grief, desire, fear, and opportunity flood in at even the genetic level of life. Our collective responses to these moments co-define our evolving inhabitance of Earth. We live in a consequential era: climate transition is indefatigably upon us, and these poems offer a pathway for how we may re-wild our imaginations in an increasingly unknowable, strange, yet deeply familiar planet. There is no turning back, and Geoffrey’s generous offering is to tune in. Nerves Between Song illuminates a plenitude of being that is “inhabited, not settled” through devoted, sensitive witness. These beautiful, challenging, and vital poems vibrate at earth amplitude.

Sueyeun Juliette Lee


Geoffrey Olsen’s debut collection Nerves Between Song takes on the urgent moment at the ambient level. Its five reverberating sequences of poems collect the overtones, undertones, and dreamlike ligaments of political and ecological catastrophe. With “hearing stretched to the exacting charge” of experience in all its multiplicity, Olsen disambiguates syntax, the body, and the so-called natural world into “tensing segments,” holding quiet chords until they fray into “lush interference.” Though “offered as noise,” the poems echo into a powerful music of fur, spores, an extinct meadow, clusters of jellyfish, ash, hooves, orange petals, a dog skeleton, purple skies, moss, synthetic coral, a tiger, pupae, ghosts, a wolf in an abandoned McDonalds. It is a music peopled with guides and fellow-travelers, from Apichatpong Weeresethekul to Leslie Scalapino, whose echoes meet in the haunted bioluminescence of Olsen’s “communist forests.” Inventive, generous, and ceaselessly alert to its own shades of radiance, Nerves Between Song draws so close to the present tense we can almost lick it.


Geoffrey Olsen is the author of five chapbooks, most recently Livid Remainders (above/ground press). He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Nerves Between Song is his first book.

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