SWIMMING THE ELEMENTS by Joseph Rosta

SWIMMING THE ELEMENTS

A Collection of Poems
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This new collection of poetry is a garden of delights—a carefully tailored compendium that sounds as good aloud as it reads on the page.

Rosta subdivides this fine gathering of his recent verse into three pieces. The first movement takes the march of the seasons as its organizing structure, as cold circles back to cold again. Thus, an early poem called “In Winter’s Arms” opens, “In February’s / lap / the birch / whistles to warm, / and shivers; / the sky whispering china.” This last bit—on “whispering china”—is a delightfully unexpected flash, and readers see many of these in Rosta’s verse. In the alliterative shift from “whistle” to “warm” to “whisper,” the author urges readers subtly, quietly forward. As spring gives way to summer, readers get “July 3,” which is also a bit of birthday verse: “Your birthday leans deeply, / the incorrigible afternoon / friend full of gossip from / lands now in winter.” Of course, readers lean, too—ever so patiently—toward those shorter, cooler days, as “the trees toss their thin suns / in your October place.” Seasonal shift proves an apt metaphor for Rosta’s poetry as a whole: there’s a sense of balance, of timeliness, of careful development guiding readers through a satisfying range of tones, temperatures and timbres, and it’s gorgeous stuff. Motherhood is the loose theme of the second movement, though the author doesn’t confine himself unnaturally to that trope, instead wandering into fruitful tangents on mourning (“Remembering That”), modernity (“Harlington, England”) and memory (“The 17th Regiment Memorial of 1861-1865”). A last section, “Love and Marriage,” is similarly focused yet digressive. Throughout, Rosta writes in short lines reminiscent of the work of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings or, more recently, Rae Armantrout. Yet here, brief never means clipped, and readers will feel as if the author is building stack after stack of sturdy, narrow staircases. They should look forward to joining him on the climb.

Delicate, precise verse that deserves a place on any poetry aficionado’s bookshelf.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0692306321
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2015