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Oneiromance (an epithalamion) by Kathleen Rooney

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Praise for Kathleen Rooney from Patty Seyburn, 2007 Gatewood Prize Judge

Oneiromance (an epithalamion) gives the marriage poem a case of vertigo, displacing while embracing the panoply of possibility when two people attempt to forge a life together. Kathleen Rooney creates a dream-state with fluid borders and a surreal set of laws that allow her to question inherited wisdom and perception, all the while converging on the altar from numerous (occasionally, numinous) angles. The romance persists between the narrator and the beloved—and crucially, between the author and language's opportunities to address the nuances and edges of commitment deemed inexplicable. These poems contain deep doubt and true sentiment, providing that pleasure-giving union of provocation and renewal.

From Christian Hawkey

For Kathleen Rooney a wedding is a script, and the ceremony takes place in at least six genres: cartoon, western, thriller, soap opera, documentary, and sitcom. Oneiromance is one long delirious "homage to the glorious / states of our unions," which are all the more glorious since "no one can explain the state that we're in."

From Bill Knott

Oneiromance puts the overt back in verse. Extravagant in sweep and pathos, the beauty of these poems soars like a wedding cake for astronauts. Kathleen Rooney is a poet too rich to read at one sitting, but I think any reader will enjoy extending the honeymoon they take with this book. I wish I could sufficiently praise its merits in kind, be a match for its flights and profundities.

From Alice Fulton

Kathleen Rooney's beautifully structured epithalamion is saturated with nuptial terror: the music and friction, zeal and unease, absurdity and profundity of marriage. Oneiromance parodies and feasts upon the vain excesses of contemporary wedding culture, but there's tenderness and devotion here, too—a sweetness that's saucy rather than cloying: "Her breasts seem to him lovely as mud- / daubed birds' nests." I'm thrilled by a sensibility so acerbic, funny, sad, sardonic, insouciant, salty, and bittersweet, by poems so rich with slippage, misgiving, loss, and wit. Rooney's work is animated by a dexterous, inventive intelligence and a fearless imagination: "those pearls / on your bodice are really your baby teeth?" Her poems fibrillate with fine surprises; their originality and edge are stunning. Like "a book in sandpaper" that could "destroy everything else on the shelves," Oneiromance is scary good, wicked good, and Kathleen Rooney is surely one of the most brilliant poets of her generation, a discovery. Her linguistic powers provoke and awaken the page.

From Sidney Wade

Kathleen Rooney's remarkable new book runs on the excellent steam of dream logic and poetry magic, whose essential connections can be illuminated only by the steadiest of hands. Each page is vertiginous with surprise, a difficult, high-wire act throughout which she maintains an impressive level of control. It's obvious she loves language to distraction and revels in its play, to our great advantage and amusement. This is that rare and wonderful thing, the poetry of celebration that doesn't dismiss darkness but pulls it into the dance. Oneiromance (an epithalamion) is an inordinately entertaining romp through Brazil, the American Midwest, and Niagara Falls, which, in a final surprise, ends on a quietly moving note that feels both satisfying and true.

Interviews and Reviews

  • From Emily Thomas's review at Redivider, Spring 2009, Issue 6.2

    "The surreal, ethereal dreamscapes described in the poems compliments the uncertainties that are naturally associated with the subjects of marriage and establishes the speaker as a vulnerable, yet stalwart presences in the poems."

  • From Juliet Cook's Best Reads of 2008: Poetry, December 2008:

    "Quirky microcosms intersect with bigger pictures-individual insecurities interact with more widespread parameters of acceptability-and the surreality of wedding as pageant is juxtaposed with issues of personal identity and how such identity may shift as one approaches a ceremony that is oft portrayed as a life changing event."

  • From Christopher Gallinari's review at Waiting for the Bus

    "But poetry already presents enough questions and Rooney is kind enough to punctuate her sentences with periods, her anxieties with a promise of sorts to herself, as well as her spouse...Rooney and her personae address their fears without succumbing to them or the temptation of an overly simplistic triumph over them."