Rachael Inciarte's What Kind Of Seed Made You

Desert Provocations in Rachel Inciarte's What Kind of Seed Made You: A Review by Ashley Wallace

Not all poetry adheres to a formal structure, of course, but some verse that does take on traditional forms can feel rigid and unyielding. Not so in Rachel Inciarte's first chapbook of poetry, What Kind of Seed Made You—a book built with a gentle flow, but a solid supporting structure. The poet explores classical themes in their poetry, but does so through a framework of personal experiences, lending a freshness and vibrance to the book. 

Inciarte (she/they) is a writer living in California with their family.What Kind of Seed Made You is their first chapbook of poetry, published by Finishing Line Press in 2021. Their work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. They hold an MFA from Emerson College. Two poems, “Choking Hazards” and “How to Remove Cradle Cap,” appear in Issue 17 of Miracle Monocle.  

I made a choice to read Inciarte’s chapbook three different times. The first reading was straightforward; I was interested in getting an idea of the poems' themes and curious about how much I would remember by the time I read the book a second time. A few poems caught my attention immediately and became the ones I read aloud to my senior cat upon the occasion of my second visit with the book. During my third reading, I carried two poems in particular to the park where I walk every week: “Desert Animals” and “What the Water Takes." As I read them aloud, I felt as though I were being touched by a gentle and honest mother. 

From "Desert Animals," the lines, "The last is a seed tucked deep in her belly / just in case because she is desert wide / knows nature is not sweet to the weak / knows we are all so easily replaced," stuck with me. I also found myself carrying these lines from “What the Water Takes": "water is our origin it makes sense / to worry the tide might draw us back in / The way we scare when Mama says, ‘I brought you into this world, / and I can take you out.’"

In their chapbook, Inciarte merges the desert—its thorns, its fissures of pain—with healing beauty: wildlife and petals. The book opens with a question to the reader—“What kind of seed made you?”—and proceeds with the knowledge that readers want to be handled with care; we want to be appreciated for both our self-protective thorns and our sweetly fragrant emotions. 

Inciarte grabbed my attention with poems like “Things You Might Not Know About Desert Animals,” “Thorns,” and “Fortunes.” In these poems, the writer connects the two worlds of nature and our own reality. Inciarte may not spare us the horrors to be found in nature, but she's also capable of pulling us inside great moments of dark beauty. 

This is a book that asks you how wise you are about the desert, about the world. Some poems come from the voice of a friend, a sister, or an observer of life; some come from the place of a mother's view on her skills; but all invite us to reconsider the cradle of rest available in nature. Many of us have been touched by grief, confusion, and the upheaval of our lives in the context of the pandemic. What a delight to encounter a book that tells us it's OK to step back and say, "I need rest." If you enjoy poetry that is at once unforgiving but also gentle in its examination of nature, this one is for you. 

ASHLEY WALLACE is a genre editor of Miracle Monocle.