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.
The Claremont Graduate School: Kate Tufts Discovery Award
The Believer Magazine: The Believer Poetry Award
Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation: Whiting Foundation Writer's Awards
“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.”