The Verging Cities cover front


Winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award in Poetry
Winner of the GLCA’s 2016 New Writers Award 
 Featured as One of The Best Debuts of 2015 by  Poets and Writers
Winner of the 2016 Utah Book Award 
Winner of the 2016 National Association of Chicana/o Studies Award 
Named one of 23 Essential New Books By Latino Poets by Los Angeles Times
Named a Top 30 Must-Read Poetry Debut by  LitHub 

 Praise For The Verging Cities

“The U.S.-Mexico border and the strained but wondrous connection between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is the energetic and sometimes tragic setting of Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection of poems. Hers is an insider’s view behind the headlines: the troubled border is also a place teeming with life, thriving with culture and hope. This book is a hard-won love song to one of America’s most misunderstood landscapes.”

—Rigoberto González, “Summer Reads: Top 9 Latino Authors”

“[I]t is difficult to find a voice discerning and trustworthy enough to share its stories with the scope and passion [with which] Natalie Scenters-Zapico faces the subject in The Verging Cities. . . . The Verging Cities doesn’t rely on the sentimentalism of liberal immigrant narratives or commercials designed to garner donations; it doesn’t feel like a movie. Reading the book doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me weep with anger and frustration. It opens the wounds people try to ignore. It calls the ambulance.”

—Willy Palomo, “The Verging Cities: Micro Review” Indiana Review

“Not for the faint of heart, Scenters-Zapico guides us through dive bars and corpse-ridden gullies, along thirst-inducing border fences, and into bureaucratic hell. . . . The Verging Cities pulls no punches, yet it is also tender and intelligent.”

—D.M. O’Connor, “Interview with Scenters-Zapico” Blue Mesa Review

“…the central drama—and source of beauty—of these poems: love and fear wrestle over the fate of human life.”

—Christopher Nelson, “A Review of Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s The Verging Cities” Under A Warm Green Linden

“…this collection time and again shows the importance of not looking away, of always being able to name and seek out ways to learn us how to go on living.”

—José Ángel Araguz, “The Verging Cities: Review” The Volta Blog

“Scenters-Zapico recognizes…that text is an inadequate form of resurrection. Yet she must try. ‘Some say, you have no right to talk about the dead. / So I talk of them as living, their bodies standing in the street’s bend,’ she writes. The poet’s words, like flint and tinder, ignite the silence.”

—Sandra Beasley, “Flint and Tinder—Understanding the Difference Between ‘Poetry of Witness’ and ‘Documentary Poetics'” Poetry Northwest 

“In these poems, the border is a powerful metaphor, but it is never merely trope; it is actual, political, damaging.”

—Joseph Campana, “The Verging Cities: Micro-Review” Kenyon Review

“The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico left me muttering and shaking my head in disbelief. I was sincerely blown away by this book. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, I’m obsessed with the border, and Natalie captures the violence of this abstract and physical space in such beautiful, precise, and surreal language. The exploitation of the female body—which the speaker continually interrogates—is also at the core of this book: ‘He wonders when she ate so many / stars, how they stay hidden in the sky of her. Her blood drowns the city quiet.'”

—Erika L. Sánchez, “Reading List: June 2015” 

“Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection explores how lives are altered in the verging cities of Juarez and El Paso. The visual layout of these poems is striking and captures the speaker’s concern for both literal and metaphorical bridges. What I found most intriguing is how these poems cause the reader to deeply consider how various types of division, borders, and separation affect identity. This is definitely a must-read book.”

—Melisa Garcia, “Summer Must Reads: Latin@ Poets” Blue Mesa Review

“Natalie Scenters-Zapico engages politically and personally charged material here with signature intimacy and fairy-tale strangeness. . . . There’s often a sense of blood thirst and blood magic . . . a sense that chthonic forces thrum under every border encounter and experience, where violence is ‘greeted with extreme desire.’ The poems and the poet ask, ‘What can art do in the face of such brutality and death?’ It’s a question that threads through all of Scenters-Zapico’s work. Propelled by love and horror, Scenters-Zapico writes a rich, dark poetry of witness: ‘Some say, you have no right to talk about the dead. / So I talk about them as living, their bodies standing in the street’s bend.’”
—Dana Levin
“From the Kentucky Club to the Border Patrol, from murder to marriage to Lotería, Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection is a lush love poem to life along the border, in the ‘verging cities’ of El Paso and Cd. Juarez. Fiercely original, these poems detail life along the border and beyond with a lover’s intimate gaze. While the book ‘sings of murder, all wildness’ it also catalogues beauty in the ordinary and in the unexpected from Antiques Roadshow to the border fence that the dead help collapse ‘link by link.’ Wildly imagistic and political in the best way, this book challenges stereotypes of the border, and is a stunning contribution to literature of the Americas.”  
—Lisa D. Chávez
“‘Travelers think there’s nothing in the desert,’ writes poet Natalie Scenters-Zapico in this debut collection, an obsessive examination of the seams and scars of borders. Writing about both US/Mexico and marriage, Scenters-Zapico crafts poems driven by visceral images of mass graves, maquilas, heatwaves, sex, and bullfights. The risks and intelligence of this book are stunning, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
—Carmen Giménez Smith


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