Patty Nash is a poet whose formally diverse works sublimate myth and memory into prismatic, fragmented narratives. Her poetry pivots between registers: from the dialogic or narrative-based, to more oblique modes of address, at times engaging with pop culture and literary references. Nash studied at the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she completed two MFAs, first in Literary Translation and then in Poetry. “Although I translate, I see translation as essentially impossible—a utopian attempt to transpose experience through time and space—and yet I understand that the communicative aspect of translation is indeed possible.” In turn, Nash’s poetry practice emphasizes the innate fluidity of language, tracing moments of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
Nash’s poetry has been published in esteemed journals such as jubilat, West Branch, and Denver Quarterly. In 2021, she began work on “Walden Pond”: a book-length poem that takes Henry David Thoreau as its jumping-off point. Thoreau’s 1854 publication Walden details his experiences living in a remote cabin near Concord, Massachusetts. It is an ode to nature, independence, and spiritual transcendence written over two years, two months, and two days. Nash’s “Walden Pond” interrogates the notion of individual and society that has persisted in the US-American imagination since Walden’s publication; by negotiating the quotidian, Nash imbues fraught modern experiences with unexpected beauty and humor. The work captivates by its ambulatory style and subtle changes to pitch and tone of voice. Nash confides, reflects, and tells intersecting stories, and her episodic approach is simultaneously reflected on the page as she combines poetry formats. With wry wisdom, Nash moves the reader from a reflection on a stolen wallet to a discussion about the nature of criminality, showing the inseparable relationship between experiences, emotions, and ideas.
Nash is a contributor to a number of journals, and writes in both English and German. In her 2021 essay “Chain of Sayings: On Paul Celan’s ‘I heard it said,’” published in the literary journal Annulet, Nash considered the legacy of Jewish German-language poet Paul Celan. Having survived the Nazi period, Celan witnessed how language can be mobilized to obfuscate the machinations of genocidal power. Nash expertly unpicks Celan’s poem “I heard it said,” charting his engagement with the unspeakable, concealed aspects of language. Nash concludes that Celan’s work is testament to how language is equally affected by both large-scale historical moments and the limited scope of daily speech.
In 2021, Nash participated in a poetry workshop co-organized by Callie’s and a.p.; the workshop was conceptualized and led by poet and Callie’s resident Tracy Fuad. The participants met weekly to critically engage with one another’s writing, provide feedback, analysis, and to share new work.
During her residency at Callie’s in 2022, Nash continued writing Walden Pond.