Romp And Ceremony by Jeannie E. Roberts. Finishing Line Press, 2017.
Reviewed by Makenzie Rosol
Poetry is supposed to share a message with its readers, teach them a life lesson, and give balance between the figurative and literal realms of writing. Jeannie E. Roberts, author of Romp And Ceremony, effortlessly delivers her poetry collection with a clear-cut arrangement of her work. Roberts includes five separate sections, starting out darker with the first section, “Seasonal Disorders,” then slowly moving towards lighter tones in the second, “Brighter Days Ahead.” Under section Ⅰ, the poem “Garbage Night” entails the pain of winter in Wisconsin, truly reflecting the “Seasonal Disorders” section title:
The sky is clear and Orion beckons with his
three-starred belt; perhaps, he could swoop
down, scoop me up, drop me off in his neck-
of-the-southern-hemisphere-woods; after all,
it’s late February in Wisconsin
and the livin’ ain’t easy!
The poem longs for spring, hitting the reader with the dread of the winter season. As the section ends, Roberts does a great job leading into the next part, which relates to the hope of spring. In the poem “May Day,” the author captures the events and holidays that enclose around the month of pure spring:
Maybe all she needs is a day in May,
a freeing day, one that dances around
a maypole or a day that gallops-
Kentucky Derby-style! Or, perhaps,
a day that sips sangrias on the cinco
or one that takes Mother’s Day off-
Each section has a purpose, a way of moving through the collection with little confusion. However, in section Ⅱ, the author goes back to March in the poem “Daylight Savings Time,” which interrupts the timeframe. This poem would fit better in section Ⅰ in order to keep the organization of the collection’s movement balanced.
One of the main themes within Romp And Ceremony is about spring, the flowers, and the animals associated with nature. Roberts repetitively uses the scientific names for plants and animals discussed in her poems, painting a picture of the beauty in nature. In section Ⅲ, “Signs of Life,” the author describes a plant located in a lake, using its scientific name to describe it in “Ghosts Plants Perform in Lake Hallie”:
in the damp black dirt, M. uniflora
grows. Ghost plants haunt
the understory, break the shadows
with pallid-colored groupings
that lift like ballerinas
from stage-Earth’s trap door.
Throughout the poem, Roberts uses metaphors to grab the reader’s attention, focusing on more than just setting the scene. She helps the reader picture not only what the plant looks like but what happens as it blooms. Similarly, the author uses the scientific name for a palm tree to reference a painting of Palm Beach County in “Intoxicating Strokes Unite”:
Sabal brushes the heavens, bathes
palmetto in cerulean softness.
Colors saturate in lemon
and lime, in terra cotta
and sand overlay.
The description of the Sabal and how it “bathes palmetto in cerulean softness” paints the reader the perfect picture, as if they were looking at the painting themselves. Roberts does a fantastic job of adding texture to words, such as “Colors saturate in lemon and lime”. The use of color empowers the poem, helping the reader to imagine what the painting looks like.
Roberts often uses an ekphrasis form of description to paint a picture of works of art such as music, photographs, and paintings. One example of ekphrasis is the poem “The Wine’s Talking,” which is inspired by the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his painting, “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. In this poem, Roberts acts as if the people in the painting are interacting with one another:
It’s a tasteful occasion
as they sip, savor us
and the moment.
Our profiles glow,
our bottles flow readily
Roberts captures the thoughts and actions the people in the painting endure through an artful interpretation. Her viewpoint of the painting reaches into a deeper meaning, with the poem completing the art of setting the scene.
Overall, Jeannie E. Roberts inspires with her themes of spring, flowers, animals, and all things nature. She sweeps through the book with detailed descriptions that jump off the page into the reader’s minds. Each poem travels between a literal and figurative path, giving the reader a glimpse of the art of poetry. Romp And Ceremony is a delightful read, perfect for the end of winter into the start of a new spring.