As the Deer Panteth, by Ellie Rae-Print Books-Bottlecap Press

As the Deer Panteth, by Ellie Rae

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Ellie Rae
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Poetry, chapbook, 20 pages, from Bottlecap Features.

“As the Deer Panteth for The Water” is an old Christian hymn describing the singer’s innate desire for God. In Ellie Rae’s debut chapbook, they explore what it is to thirst and yearn for mystery, family, belonging, and love in the wake of religious abuse. Throughout the work, Ellie explores sapphic love and longing from the perspective of a young non-binary person in the South.

The collection begins with “Ivory Soap” which details the yearning of a child to be good outside the confines of the Christian faith. The desire for unconditional attention and care is congruent through both familial and romantic relationships. Poems dispersed throughout the work detail child-like wonder, unrequited love, and the holy sweetness of love even – and perhaps especially – when it ends. The collection also explores the author’s relationship growing up in the South; recalling poverty, food, and their relationship with Fundamentalist relatives. These poems beg the question: What makes us good? And detail what it’s like to fall from idyllic Christian innocence into a more honest, gritty worldview. The chapbook is littered with Southern imagery and fond memories of the details of the beauty of country life. There are frequent allusions to Christian hymns and bible verses throughout the poems, as well as references to whimsical, childlike imagery.

Ellie explores their grief at losing a relationship with the Christian God, their innocence, and the simplicity of their younger relationships. They take care to note that beauty is a kind of balm and sap in the midst of grief and generational trauma. Ultimately they find that home, and perhaps the quenching for this innate thirst “blooms between [their] eyelashes”, “curls up in [their] molars,” and “bounces between creases of fat.” The longing for goodness at the beginning of the work is satisfied by the innate goodness of queer embodiment in such a way that it becomes prayer.

Ellie Rae is a 22-year-old nonbinary poet and activist based in Dallas, Texas. They write about generational trauma, embodiment, inner child work, and spirituality. Their work explores intersecting identities of being both Southern and queer and often alludes to biblical imagery and hymns. You can find them at @rae_of_ellie on Instagram.