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Now Available: Romance Language

Updated: Jan 2

Well, I thought this book was going to be released in 2016, but the universe had other plans for it. Not complaining: Able Muse did an unbelievably attentive job with editing and I'm thrilled. I got incredibly lucky that their guest judge for 2022 was the wonderful Rachel Hadas, with whom I share a certain simpatico around her old friend and my very brief acquaintance and very long-running "influencer," James Merrill. This book was conceived at his apartment in Stonington, CT, where I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship in 2012, and plays with many of his pet tropes, themes, and preoccupations. In fact it specifically plays with a passage from his Ouija Board epic, The Changing Light at Sandover, which scaffolds the whole collection.

To put it one way, this collection did not come from a happy place, as happy as I am to see it come to life. In 2014, while it was still half-finished, tarot genius Benebell Wen "read" the manuscript—as in, intuitively, based on the title and one or two high-level descriptive comments. (Anyone who's at all interested in tarot would do well to grab a copy of her book Holistic Tarot.) The reading was astonishingly accurate, in spite of (or maybe because of) the book only being partially completed at the time. As the extremely well-trodden cover image might suggest, this book's subject matter is as old as time—loss, grief, disillusion (and dissolution), unrequited love, seduction, metamorphosis. I like to think some of it is also—you know, funny. The title is playing with several threads simultaneously: some of these poems are about romance (and some are about language); several are set in Rome or other places where Romance languages are spoken; some use physics and astronomy as pillow talk; some grapple with the writ-large emotional excesses and exalted imaginations of Romanticism. Several are about the sex lives of birds.

Wen's reading featured four cards that especially resonated with me: The Devil, The Star, the Sun and the Nine of pentacles—the meanings of the cards are layered but easy respective keywords would be bondage, healing, happiness, and independence. In Wen's reading the Sun was reversed, meaning "not-happiness." It took a long time to complete and an even longer time to see daylight, and I'm happy to see it finally in print.

The official drop date is 1/2/2024, but it can be preordered now, through Able Muse's website, Amazon, or your local indie bookseller. For Bay Area people, stay tuned, there will be a launch reading or two. If you'd like to join a mailing list, you can do it here—I promise not to be a SPAM offender.

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