Dereliction by Gabrielle Octavia Rucker
Dereliction, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker's debut collection of poetry, moves through childhood and into the afterlife with poems that evoke an artful and urgent sense of the author's "insatiable wandering." With cinematic imagery and formal variation, these poems effortlessly find dream-life and myth transforming the daily actions of talking on the phone or finding your reflection in the window. The bracing intimacy of Rucker's voice invites us into a precise and carefully constructed world in which we are asked to question what it means to “do the human things,” and where the poet eventually asks the reader, and possibly poetry itself, "What bloody lens holds firm between this mystery & us?"
Gabrielle Octavia Rucker is a self-taught writer and poetic practitioner from the Great Lakes currently living in the Gulf Coast. She is a 2020 Poetry Project Fellow and 2016 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow. Her work has appeared in various media and publications, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, Annulet, Montez Press Radio, and more.
Gabrielle Rucker's Dereliction considers an afterlife without any sense of resignation, cups the end times in hands that make and remake. “A voice starts singing, closing in on the life-force below,” this song making vision raw, like looking at the sun through closed eyes. The voice may be “hatched from the sun”: there are flares of color, buddings, unfurlings. “There’s nowhere to speak about what didn’t happen,” and so this assured collection progresses plot-like through dreamtime, not with a sense of dread but with the weight of vacuum, of writing from outer space. Rucker writes that “prophecy demands brevity,” then makes this word anew. A cinematic, gorgeous debut.
This feral book of fight treads quicksand: Dereliction is not for the faint of heart. In her debut collection, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker, wearing her role as poet with cosmic integrity, consumes an ancient and idled spirit, staring blankly with full eyes into ambling dark, an open wound, the total horror of things, pawing at it like a cat, as to mold back into language. Escape was never an option. World-weary/wary Rucker “sticks to the swamp,” riddling tightly lyrical hymnals at the lowest decibel. And how lucky are we? To be told the truth for once? Dereliction does not assuage. Can you stomach it? Chant it in mirrors. I dare you.
—S*an D. Henry-Smith
Dereliction, Gabrielle Rucker’s captivating debut, is anything but. With an ear and eye attuned to the resonances of contemporary discourse and its silences, Rucker understands the poetic as a site of resistance, producing beautiful, elusive poems that reveal the inner music of thought and spin meaning on its head. “Wholeness, you see, is not my goal,” yet Dereliction shows us nevertheless how entire realms unreel herein.
Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s Dereliction starts like half-sure footfall on brown leaves in the middle of the day when we’re supposed to be doing work for others but cannot resist the call to work with ourselves. This needful insistence to break away from convention characterizes the spirited voices that sing, chant, curse, toy, question, provoke, and love through these poems. With language crispy, sharp, focused and forgiving, Rucker pulls us into the creation and destruction of what can be revealed when we hold our truths to sunlight and midnight’s dark. With playful and daring precision, Rucker shoulders doubt and belief in beautiful balance, inviting us into her universes with an arrow, marrow, and a heaven-sent playground vision. This debut is resplendent—an ecstatic-ancient-ever-present. Simply put: Dereliction brought me to tears.
—Joselia Rebekah Hughes