Romey's Order is an indelible sequence of poems voiced by an invented (and inventive) boy-speaker called Romey, set alongside a river in the South Carolina lowcountry.
As the word-furious eye and voice of these poems, Romey urgently records--and tries to order--the objects, inscape, injuries, and idiom of his "blood-home" and childhood world. Sounding out the nerves and nodes of language to transform "every burn-mark and blemish," to “bind our river-wrack and leavings," Romey seeks to forge finally (if even for a moment) a chord in which he might live. Intently visceral, aural, oral, Atsuro Riley's poems bristle with musical and imaginative pleasures, with story-telling and picture-making of a new and wholly unexpected kind.
“Romey’s Order is the world of a young boy growing up in backwoods South Carolina. His father is an ex-soldier, his mother the Japanese wife the father brought home from his time as a soldier. Thus the radical dichotomies in the young boy’s world, rendered in a dense and beautiful, intensely expressive and inventive language. This language is indebted to Hopkins as well as Heaney, full of a child’s invented word-play trying to capture the smells and textures and country-speech he is constantly assaulted by. The boy is obsessed with language, words that save the dense world from extinction. Words confer almost a magical immediacy to experience, but also wound: half-Asian, at the fair he finds a stall with a game called ‘Shoot the Gook Down.’ The author frames all this as his heritage: ‘This is the house . . . I come from and carry.’ The result is amazing and indelible, a brilliant work.”
“Romey’s Order will draw you in and forward from the moment you enter its compelling initial image: an enchanted cave of a ditch pipe. The poems are pure joy on the level of the syllable, pure music on the level of the phrase, and pure integrity on the level of the form: a ‘pure product of America’—yet one that is sanely exuberant, as real to the touch as a barbed wire fence and as tender to the mind as a willow.”
“A stunning first book of poems. . . . Even read silently, Mr. Riley’s delicious words roll and roil in the mouth.”
“Atsuro Riley’s Romey’s Order is a first book with rare, powerful distinction—experimental in its forms and syntax, yet familiar as an old-time fiddle for its Appalachian twang, landscape, and imagery.”
“Atsuro Riley’s strange, beautiful and unsettling debut is like nothing else you will read this year.”
“One of the most exciting and distinctive debut collections in years.”—The Believer