“at first & then”–a transitioning series of poetic anthems by Danielle Rose

Cover Art: “Isadora Duncan in the Parthenon, Athens.” Photograph by Edward Jean Steichen/Wikimedia Commons.

Danielle Rose’s first chapbook, for that’s what it is, is a phenomenally impressive piece of first work, with none of the perhaps to-be-expected over-concision of such an item.  It is enough, gently enough, but not too much or more than enough.  It is, however, more than enough to establish a place for her among those who know and love poetry.  Nor is it a bit of preciousness, a fault that short poetry books can fall heir to, especially when they take up such complicated subjects as being trans-, and furthermore attempt to capture the experience as it passes or has passed.  For here, Rose has adopted a delicate but comprehensive poetic shorthand whose condensation is a sheer delight.

The poetry in this book is first of all modeled in formal cadences like the tones of Sapphic fragments, or all that we have remaining of Sappho, short clauses and phrases barely welded together, but at the same time sensate and sensible in their pulsing resonances.  Throughout, the experience of transitioning sexually is rediscovered and reemerges, moving from earlier stages of awareness (“at first”) through and always through imagistically rich moments to the second stage (“& then”).  It doesn’t stop there, however, but keeps on going, surrounding itself with the experience of difference as if to transition once is to acquire forever the habit and ability of change, of meta-phoring.

The book begins with the image of a suicide, sparcely but feelingly imagined as it must have been, in a mirrored world of isolation and aloneness, as if to question whether the buried woman inside must be likewise sacrificed.  In the first part of this book, interior and exterior distances are examined.  In some ways, the sense of isolation with the experience is so complete that there is no sense of human exchange in the poems, until “my mother’s tears” are mentioned in the final poem of the first half, which is cast in the form of a recipe for “gender swap potion.”  But the sexuality has not been without incitement:  there is a poem a few pages before this, a poem which bestows a certain fascinated gaze on the male-female experience:  it is entitled “on walking outside with my morning coffee at 9:00 am to find my new neighbors fucking like cottontails in their backyard.”  It is a vivid and frolicsome poem of a frank voyeurism, one which is not prohibited and not even particularly noticed by the performers being watched.

Much of the poem abounds instead in natural images and creatures, but contact with them is also fragmented and tangential, which is not a fault, but an attempt to locate the experience of difference in a topos of natural life.  This is the picture of a mind informing itself from literature, science of various kinds such as ornithology, with the cadences of poetry, and then desperately sometimes only accepting these as enough, other times couching the experiences in near-refusal, or at least despondency.  The word “empty” or the concept of an emptying-out-of occurs repeatedly, but not always in the same sense:  at first it is in an emotional sense of desolation.  Then, it becomes something taking place more in a comforted sense of achievement at being thought, for example “pretty in soft light,” “pretty like a swarm of bees passed out drunk                                                                                                                                                                       in a yellow flowerbed/pollen                                                                                                                         floating/all in soft light so pretty”

The reward for the writer, here, is not held back from the reader; this is not a selfish poesy:  in the final four words of the last poem, entitled “an inventory of things that have changed,” is the repeated word “joy.”  For in the end, from its opening lines to its closing anthem, this is a book about possibilities.

(Shadowoperator:  Victoria Leigh Bennett)

2 Comments

Filed under Articles/reviews, lifestyle portraits, writers of the LGBTQ+IA2 community

2 responses to ““at first & then”–a transitioning series of poetic anthems by Danielle Rose

  1. Usually I would say that thi isn’t something I would pick up but the way you review it makes me want to leap out of my comfort zone and get face deep in it covers. And speaking of which, I will be reviewing your book soon as I am actually back this time and have my notes all ready to be transformed into actual sentences.

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  2. I think you would love the quality of the poetry itself. It’s available on Amazon here, I don’t know about Amazon.uk. Thanks for the review upcoming. I’m naturally eager to hear what you have to say. All the best to you, Crissy Amelia, your folks, and Bella for a happy weekend.

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