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Book Review :: Romance Language by Amy Glynn

In Romance Language, Amy Glynn seeks to “understand these undercurrents” that are “wrung from every one of us, in vast polyphonies / and syncopations, in desuetudes / and gasps of speechless praise.” The “truths of natural law” that govern worldly, bodily, and material things, which “crumble, and breakdown, / and are reconstituted,” catalyzes “a metaphor / that operates in every” poem. To “contemplate [this] dynamic tension,” Glynn uses “semantic fancy,” received forms, such as the ghazal and sonnet, and subject- and occasion-driven free verse.

Where language and romance are concerned “nothing’s truly off the table.” The things we tell ourselves and the advice we are given, the language used to romance “intensity / of feeling” or that contributes to “strained / relations,” and “how we conjure meaning from those chance / / alignments, accidents of circumstance” are the “tide, chaos, and rhythm” in Glynn’s poems.

Throughout the collection, chance’s “surge / of myth and implication” conjoins the “transitory and unstable.” For instance, the poems “Entre-Deux-Mers, June” and “Ruin” refute the advice to “turn” neglect “to your advantage” and to “not to let your damage / define you.” Glynn “think[s] that’s a mistake.” Then what are the implications of grieving the neglect you survived and allowing “your damage” to “define you”? A possible answer arrives in “Field Guide to the Birds of Ogygia”: The “gods send misery because they want / to hear more songs.”

Glynn’s songs contend with Keats’s declaration in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” As a survivor of life’s damage, the poet knows that is not “all”; she adds that “truth is complicated” and “overrated.” However, “beautiful is still a mandate.” With truth in perspective, the “primary phenomenon” the poet seeks “is clarity”; that which “is literal enough, the rising tide” while simultaneously acknowledging “the littoral / state, borderless as it is.” Everyone “leaves a record,” and Romance Language is Amy Glynn’s “adamant oratory / / on permanence.”

Romance Language by Amy Glynn. Able Muse Press, January 2024.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

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