The Aftermath of Unrest is a one of a kind poetry experience that combines language with art and fate. This new collection of work by NYC-based poet Natalie Nascenzi marks her second publication, following her March 2020 release Out of Chaos. Nascenzi’s latest release pairs her poetry with Grant McGrath’s paintings, a matchup resulting from serendipity. The artist himself is described as “inconsistently consistent.” Nascenzi’s portrait graces the cover, painted by Grant during a two hour sitting. Both collections prove that hope is part and parcel to the human condition, especially in times like these when we wish the chaos would stop. Hope is a message to fiercely cherish and lean on.
A copywriter, poet, sunrise enthusiast, and flower connoisseur, Nascenzi’s second collection utilizes storytelling and reflection to take readers on a journey through “passing time, the battle of the mind, the lessons of life, and finding balance in the chaos of reality,” according to the book’s description. Nascenzi cut her teeth performing bits of Out of Chaos at open mics around New York City. I had the pleasure of speaking with the poet to understand her motives for releasing The Aftermath of Unrest at this time, under such markedly different circumstances. For Natalie, fate is a force to be reckoned with. She expressed very clearly, “Just do the damn thing.”
Q: When did the conception for Out of Chaos start, and how long of a process was it?
A: I started sharing my poetry a year ago. I was going through a lot mental health-wise and started writing poetry as a way to make sense of things. I was always a writer. The form of poetry made sense to me — I could write myself out of my mind. From March 2019 to now is when I really got into poetry. I worked with someone named Grant who happened to be a painter. He was the first person I shared my work with, and he did the cover for the first book. I actually wrote him in as a character. After that, all these serendipitous coincidences started happening, and things started falling into place. With Grant, I realized he had paintings that matched my poetry. I wrote Out of Chaos for a year, and released it in March 2020. The second book was also coming along. As my writing progressed, that’s when I decided to match up poems I already wrote with his paintings.
Q: What’s the specific idea or theme behind Aftermath of Unrest?
A: It’s a continuation of what happens next in life and getting through the other side of mental illness. There is a duality of the self — you can master that, but reality still exists. You always have to confront reality. For me the months of April to June were a huge lift in finishing the story. I wrote it as I was living it. It’s kind of a “Poetic Novella,” a combination of poems, short stories, and art. I also let fate dictate if I should work with Grant again, and I did. For the cover for this book he decided to paint my portrait and I had to sit still for about two hours. The world conspires to make your passion happen.
Q: Does releasing this new book feel different from the first installment?
The first book was a “what the hell am I doing” experience. I had to figure out the whole process through other people. The first one was stressful, because I never shared my work. For the first book, I started going to open mics to break out of my shell and put myself out there. I always doubt my work, but going to open mics shattered that. This second one I’m doing by myself. This book has connected me with so many more artists and musicians. It’s stressfully exciting. Honestly my process has been: Believe in fate, go with the flow, hit the ground running. You just have to do the damn thing. Especially in quarantine, a reality is you have all the time in the world, so you have to just go for it.
Q: Where did the idea to have time stamps on your work come from?
I always did it. Like diary entries, dates were natural to me. I consider my poetry to be like diary entries. It’s important to see how I was feeling at a certain time because it’s also a measurement of growth and a way to reflect. If I read something I wrote a year ago at a specific time I can think about if I still feel the same way. I always remember the day I would write the poem.
Q: For this collection what was the best time to write for you? Are you a morning writer or a 3am writer?
If I get an idea, no matter where I am, it gets written. For the book, the curation happened really late at night and really early in the morning. I could be mid-conversation and have an idea. I have to leave the conversation to write it down.
Nascenzi has made waves in the open mic scene with her infectious personality and message about the transformation of hope. As a writer, Nascenzi employs good usage of word flow, crafted metaphors, and alliteration. She continues to spread a victorious message with The Aftermath of Unrest. Through time, one is able to find clarity and triumph. The pandemic provided time to create, and she mentioned how time is an underlying theme in her work. Triumph isn’t the end-all goal but rather a reminder that no matter how dark our minds get, there is always a way out through hope. This is evoked through the corners of each page, which say, “Have hope that joy awaits.” or similar messages. Pandemic or not, time is a constant reality. As long as we survive, we will always make it through to the aftermath.