Brooklyn Antediluvian

Patrick Rosal. Persea (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-89255-474-4
In his boisterous fourth book, Rosal (Boneshepherds) writes odes to notions of home, family, and the transcendent joy in music and dance, among other subjects. The Brooklynite turned Philadelphian opens the collection with a nod to his former borough, and as the book flows he addresses his childhood in New Jersey as well as his family and ancestors in the Philippines. Rosal’s lines bob and weave with an effortless unpredictability. In an ode to the turntable, he shows off his extraordinary ear for poetry’s sonic qualities, in particular rhythm and consonance: “Our hands cut Bach to Bambaataa// and made a dance hall jump.” Even at their best, the poems leading up to the book’s final offering, the title poem, feel like rehearsals that preface an earth-shattering performance; once there, Rosal seamlessly stitches together history, mythology, etymology, and autobiography in a winding narrative that begins with a teenage boy commenting on the speaker’s sweatshirt and transforms into a treatise on colonialism and all that a name can and cannot hold: “You might see multitudes/ come, not to watch the field but to reclaim it,// to slash a path all the way back to the tables/ we first fashioned, to present our gruesome// harvest to our governors who—no surprise—/refuse to listen.” (May)
Reviewed on: 04/18/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
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