Diann Blakely's Reviews > Bright Moves

Bright Moves by J. Allyn Rosser
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Apr 30, 2012

As one who admired the poems of J. Allyn Rosser when they appeared in magazines such as CRAZYHORSE, POETRY, and the PARIS REVIEW, I've been looking forward to the publication of her first book, feeling her work to be the sort that is best understood "in swarms," the method Stevens recommended to readers of his poems. BRIGHT MOVES has the integrity and richness of texture I'd hoped for, the poems therein complementing, counterpointing, and even contradicting each other, as the book's author no doubt intended. "The words I really want to say to youl are under these," ends "The City Underneath," the volume's opener, and Rosser's statement provides something of a key for the poems we encounter in the pages that follow. Here we are to look beyond the deceptively straightforward surfaces of narratives ; the more intricate shifts and qUick-changes of meditations; the technical adroitness required by the sonnet, terza rima, and villanelle; and conversely, the apparent simplicity of free verse, all of which are well-represented in this very fine volume.

Rosser's particular gift is for the poem of speculation, the poem that embodies the play, the "bright moves," of the mind and heart upon a given subject. "The Quickness of Things," "Solitary Figure, Adirondack Chair," "TImeline," "Two Years Later," and "A sense of connection, as in" are my
favorite pieces among these and thus in the book as a whole: Rosser's talents appear at their best when they are allowed the most room in which to maneuver. The poem of interruption and disjunction has become a cliché by now, owing in part to the proliferation of colorless and flat-toned imitators of Ashbery. However, Rosser's abrupt stops and slides and apparent digressions in "TImeline," for example, are convincing and compelling because she makes us feel that the story she tells here--one of the at ieast temporary union rather than separation or dissolution--could have been told by no one else and in no other way. The urgency, verve, and profound intelligence of this poem sets it far above others along the same lines, chronological or otherwise, seen in so many of last year's little magazines.

Yet Rosser is no mere philosophical spinner of tales and theories,removed from the tangible and sometimes unabstractable existence of things. The opening lines of "A sense of connection, as in" are a painterly celebration of the ordinary worthy of Matisse.

"...moments like this one, the green carpet
looking for once just the right green,
is it the lighting, or your shadow thrown
from Ihe tan-and-rust couch where you sit lightly--you
seem in your reverie almost to hover--clashing
horridly in your incredible socks
with the magenta stripes above the sneakers
slashed by, even oozing with, crimson shoelaces,
and yes, to be cof'lllielely honest. you're wearing
the T-shirt of yesterday. Orange stripes.

Rosser's poems have a unity that makes them difficult to excerpt, and I've done her no justice here. Nonetheless, I believe this passage, rich with observed details, jazzy colloquial diction and rhythms, and authority of feeling is representative of an exciting new poet who will doubtless win many readers.

(originally published in ERATO/HARVARD REVIEW)

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