A review of
by Atsuro Riley
In December of 2001, Atsuro Riley stepped onto the poetry scene, seemingly from out of nowhere, with a nearly perfected style. These were poems you would expect at the height of a poet’s career, poems in which previous efforts were transcended and everything mysteriously came together. Almost ten years later, Riley has released one of the most exciting and distinctive debut collections in years.
The main themes in Romey’s Order revolve around the essentials: family, food, birthplace, ethnicity, childhood exploration, and the natural world. Our guide is Romey, who, like Riley, is from the South Carolina Lowcountry, and who, also like Riley, is of mixed descent. Romey’s mother is Japanese and his father—usually shown with a bottle near at hand (and at one point seen “hounddog-digging buried half-pints from the woods”)—is Caucasian American. Romey is a sensitive, imaginative, sometimes scampish young boy. He observes, considers, and explores, and these experiences seem to “make sense” to the extent that they find articulation—especially articulation through the sounds and rhythms of language (more on that in a moment).
A book of perceptions, Romey’s Order is almost purely descriptive, the poems almost completely grounded in the sensory, the material. “Our (in-warped) wooden porch-door is kick-scarred and splintering,” Riley writes. “The hinges of it rust-cry and -rasp in time with every Tailspin-wind, and jamb-slap (and after-slap), and shudder.”
We hope you enjoy this excerpt.
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