Romey’s Order, by Atsuro Riley
(64 pages/University of Chicago Press, 2010)
Atsuro Riley’s rich, jangling, spry, feisty sound-paintings in Romey’s Order make reading his poetry like taking a synesthetic drug: sometimes it is hard to tell if you are tasting a sound, or feeling a color, or vividly remembering a place you’ve never visited.
“This is the house (and jungle-strangled yard) I come from and carry.
The air our here is supper-singed (and bruise-tingeing) and close. From where I’m hid (a perfect Y-crotch perch of medicine-smelling sweet gum), I can belly-worry this (welted) branch and watch for swells (and coming squalls)
along our elbow curve of river…”
Riley creates a way of seeing through sound: read his work aloud. It is meant to be read aloud. What comes out of your mouth will sound like a southern gothic symphony, and it will be a place you want to live.
In the poem, “Skillet” Riley stews in all the goth of Faulkner, but then boils the broth off. He claims his language and then spins and spins and spins with it, like a gypsy moth, or like Willy Wonka with the flavor of cast iron:
Is a cast-heft
Chokedamp’s in it
Turnturbulating crubble-corf and -barrows.
Trace-tastes of (blast-furnace) harrow-smelt and pour.
Holds the heat hard. Rememories flavors: no warshing.
Carques and plaques itself in layers, like a pearl.”
Finally, there is a book of poetry not “about” language, but singing language alive. Romey’s Order conjures: place, people, scent, humidity, humor, meaning. It is pure maple sorcery.