Recognized for his “wildly original” poetry and his “uncanny and unparalleled ability to blend lyric and narrative,” Atsuro Riley deepens here his uncommon mastery and tang. In Heard-Hoard, Riley has “razor-exacted” and “raw-wired” an absorbing new sequence of poems, a vivid weavework rendering an American place and its people.
At once an album of tales, a portrait gallery, and a soundscape; an “inscritched” dirt-mural and hymnbook, Heard-Hoard encompasses a chorus of voices shot through with (mostly human) histories and mysteries, their “old appetites as chronic as tides.” From the crackling story-man calling us together in the primal circle to Tammy figuring “time and time that yonder oak,” this collection is a profound evocation of lives and loss and lore.
— World Literature Today
"No one in American poetry has a voicebox quite like Atsuro Riley’s—trained by ear on a mother’s native Japanese, the raised vowels of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and Gerard Manley Hopkins’s hyphen-happy, consonant-crowded compounds. In his second collection, Riley lends his inimitable instrument to boyhood acquaintances and communal complaints: 'We come gnawed by need on hands and knees.'"
— Boston Globe, Best Books of 2021
"Riley's oeuvre breaks new lyric ground with its singular style. This rich, polyphonic collection will keep readers entranced."
— Publishers Weekly
"The essential collection of our moment—what we’ve needed most without knowing it."
— Jesse Nathan
“The collection calls us back to the roots of language, breaking it apart and putting it back together. Riley’s inventiveness is an invitation to notice language’s connection to the natural world, both equally complex and beautiful.”
"Riley captures the accents of his hardscrabble world through language worked to a country eloquence."
— David Woo
"A superb book about people attempting to make a life together in America. . . .This book is crucial to contemporary American poetry right now because it shows a lyric poet of unique formal gifts doing something we’d usually expect from a great novelist—exploring and fully rendering our striving to give shape and meaning to our lives together—all while maintaining the force and subtlety of his lyric gift."
— Peter Campion
"The strongest new book of poetry this year. . . . Magnificent. . . . a long-awaited and satisfying book."
— Bookworm, Top Ten Books 2021
Lush and strange, Riley’s voice is utterly transfixing, bringing South Carolina low country to life in enviable detail ('Her null eye long since gone isinglassy, opal') and rich music ('Crosses Clary bless her barrow up there now / Pausing and voweling there—/ the place where the girl fell'). . . . Phrases borrowed from Bishop, Dickinson, Heaney, Virgil, and Hopkins offer the book a splendid chorus. Riley’s vision is rich with luminous lines."
— Maya C. Popa
“A landscape charged with the bright light of discernment, where emotions are stirred by rhythmic torsion and sonic density.”
— Julie Carr, judge, Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America
"Intoxicating. . . Sounds unheard and unrivaled since Atsuro Riley’s acclaimed debut permeate Heard-Hoard. His elegant rhythms are atmospheric and robust, his neologisms transform the 'weed-embrangling snuffle-path,' his vernacular is magical as 'dew-sparks galaxifying the crabgrass.' Amid each mesmerizing reading, like dancing to a good song for a good long time before truly hearing its lyrics, Heard-Hoard’s remarkable stories crystallize; music becomes narrative. Atsuro Riley is an extraordinary poet. This book holds all the meanings of fantastic."
— Terrance Hayes
"Magnificently singular. If evocation of place, however pungent, were the main thing in Riley’s work I wouldn’t be very interested. But he’s pursuing something a lot more ambitious, even abstract, that has deeply to do with, I almost want to say, sacred properties of language or language that could cast a spell against harm. He needs to make big sense; he has the deep confidence it takes to press language hard—not for self-amusement but to hear something he is desperate to hear."
— Kay Ryan
"The category of the 'mythic' has been much cheapened by overuse, but Atsuro Riley’s Heard-Hoard restores the term to its original and originary power. The English language has rarely been so richly augmented in such little space."
— Linda Gregerson
"One of the most exciting books of poetry I've read in my life."
— Michael Silverblatt, host, "Bookworm"
"In these pages, Riley creates a uniquely American idiom—expressive, earthy, and flat-out dazzling—that will slake and succor readers for many years to come."
— World Literature Today
“In ways that few poets can access—think Hopkins, think Celan—Riley is at work in a different intelligence language holds, one folded underneath the ratios of daily logic. . . . We gain permission to enter a sacred and strange field, where words don’t describe a life, but a life is inscribed in words.”
— Dan Beachy-Quick
"Reading Atsuro Riley’s poetry is not only a pleasure, albeit a difficult and challenging one at times, it is an instruction manual. Heard-Hoard is a must read, not only for poets, but for all writers who take writing seriously. Who treat it as a vocation."
— Rochford Street Review
"Radical in its bracing mix of lyric and narrative and in its deeply compassionate humanism."
— Hudson Review
"Both Heard-Hoard and Romey’s Order immerse the reader in the South Carolina lowcountry, in a community filled with character, story, and landscape. However, in the second book, it is a tired and broken place. Romey’s world, if not actively inviting, at least feels exciting, gorgeous in its terror. In both collections, the beauty in Riley’s language is undeniable. It chatters with exuberance and discovery in Romey’s Order; in Heard-Hoard it moans like a blues. Both books present abuse, racism, and displacement, one through the eyes of a child, the other through the eyes of victims and scarred survivors. Perhaps these books pair like innocence and experience, or perhaps they pair like the individual and the collective. Either way they show a poet perpetually at the top of his craft, balancing music and silence to create power."
— Georgia Review
“Linguistically and sonically intense, emotionally buffeting. . . . I can’t think of a poet writing right now more original, more true to his internal tuning fork and singular vision.”
— Carol Moldaw
"Riley splits words apart and arranges them in counterpoint to create a singular music, an effect that reminded me of cracking open a geode to reveal its secret inner glittering. Readers of these poems will enter a fully formed world, with its own characters, myths, chorus, and repetitions. Sonically and emotionally complex, Heard-Hoard is a
collection to treasure and return to."
— Katherine Litwin, Library Director, Poetry Foundation
"Every line is a mouthful in Atsuro Riley's wild and extravagant poems, a terrarium of 'perservating fiddler-crabs pockworking the pluff-mud.' In his poetry of profusion, syntax warps, and parts of speech change places. But this is no random riot of language: Riley brings into being a particular world, a childhood in the South Carolina lowcountry and its 'rudimental stories,' a land as violent and gorgeous as the idiom he invents for it."
— The American Academy of Arts and Letters, citation for the Award in Literature
"Atsuro Riley is among our most important contemporary poets because he is among our most precise. Riley’s meticulous phrasing, finely wrought syntax, and attunement to the peculiarities of rural speech make his most recent collection, 2021’s Heard-Hoard, 'something important.' . . . Poetry, for Riley, is humanity’s saving grace, the ladder out of the dirt."
— Patrick Davis