Press Release: Riley Romey’s Order

April 20, 2010
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Romey’s Order is a charged sequence of poems voiced by an invented (and inventive) boy called Romey, set alongside a river in the South Carolina lowcountry. Intently visceral, aural, oral, Atsuro Riley’s poems bristle with musical and imaginative pleasures, with storytelling 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.”
Frank Bidart
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.”
Susan Stewart

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