cover image Heard-Hoard


Atsuro Riley. Univ. of Chicago, $20 (96p) ISBN 978-0-226-78942-2

The haunting second collection from Riley (Romey's Order) inhabits qualities of both lyric and narrative, animated by "The old ever-voice (with the tear through it) intonating, rivering." Drawing on a variety of human and nonhuman voices, the poems blur the line between story and song, speaker and place. The language strongly evokes the American South with its chiggermoss, quarter-pecks, and cottonmouths, but beyond that local specificity of the details lies a power drawn from fragments of speech repeated throughout. Of these varied and insistent voices, Riley simultaneously ponders and declares, "Hadn't they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark," pointing to the deeper considerations of place and belonging that shape many of these poems. Questions of foreignness and difference arise in such poems as "Stranger," which depicts a community's bigoted reaction to a perceived newcomer: "Word said and word'd spread She's some flotsam/ from that load of 'those' what flooded here by boat." Riley's oeuvre breaks new lyric ground with its singular style. This rich, polyphonic collection will keep readers entranced. (Oct.)