Heard-Hoard

ALICE FAY di CASTAGNOLA AWARD from THE POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA

Finalist, PEN AMERICA’S VOELCKER POETRY AWARD

BOSTON GLOBE—BEST BOOKS of 2021

BOOKWORM—TOP 10 BOOKS of 2021

Recognized for his ‘wildly original’ poetry and his ‘uncanny and unparalleled ability to blend lyric and narrative,’ Atsuro Riley extends and 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 and remembering an American place and its people.

At once an album of tales and portrait gallery and soundscape, ‘inscritched’ dirt-mural and hymnbook, Heard-Hoard encompasses a chorus of voices, shot through as they are with their (mostly human) histories and their 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,’ Atsuro Riley’s new collection is a profound evocation of lives and loss and lore, ‘a lit meat-mesh of heards.’


"A superb book about people attempting to make a life together in America."

"The demotic and the literary, the arcane and the ordinary, the ancient and the invented give Riley's work the range it needs to house his vision and his voices."

"This book is crucial to contemporary American poetry because it shows a lyric poet of unique formal gifts doing something we'd usually expect from a great novelist—exploring and 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 Adroit Journal

"Heard-Hoard contains many examples of wicked desires and violent compulsions—from angry gangs of runaway children to a tormented former prisoner of war—but the 'story-man' represents a way of being together that satisfies our deepest 'appetites' and makes room for our 'souls.'

"The 'rudimental stories' are a way to get and keep access to beauty, despite relentless adversity—and to let beauty, rather than fear, shape one’s body and one’s soul."

"Riley is like a painter who increasingly allows color, form, and texture to be his guide, as he becomes less concerned with making the subject or the narrative explicit to the viewer and more interested in creating universal sensory, emotional, and philosophical effects."

"The stakes here are extraordinarily high: salvation, protection, soul-fashioning.

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."

JULIAN GEWIRTZ, World Literature Today

"Linguistically and sonically intense, emotionally buffeting. . .”   

"The redemption inherent in these poems is inextricable from the textured guttural language in which all is expressed.  

I can't think of a poet writing now more original, more true to his internal tuning fork and singular vision."
CAROL MOLDAW, Lana Turner Journal

"Radical in its bracing mix of lyric and narrative and in its deeply compassionate humanism.”   

". . . the habitat of Heard-Hoard is disquietingly original. "

"Riley argues throughout Heard-Hoard that stories define us and that the most primal ones are “radical”: arising from extremity and provoking equally extreme change (soul-splitting, and thus soul-making).”

. . . the pain and alienation articulated by each character are nonetheless singular, as in the pitch-perfect (and perfectly paced) poem “Moth” . . .Transformed from person into thing, Candy endures a trauma so radical (in the moment, and in memory) that she can only speak of it through metaphor, or not at all."
MEG SCHOERKE, The Hudson Review


"A poet perpetually at the top of his craft, balancing music and silence to create power."

"Atsuro Riley does it all: plot, place, people." 

"In his first collection, a wonder-eyed child tells stories of a place that adult readers understand is laced with darkness. In his second book, adult voices pull back the curtain and show the ugly underbelly of that same place."

"In both books music is the fabric of being."

 "Heard-Hoard moans like a blues: like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Riley's South Carolina lowcountry is surely part reality, part fiction, and one hundred percent truth."

"Riley's 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. Song is the main event."
EMILY PÉREZ, The Georgia Review

"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 is oral, aural and neural in ways I continue to absorb . . .it holds all the meanings of fantastic.
TERRANCE HAYES
"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. . ."

"A vision in which the ancient mythic and the lived moment interpenetrate. . ."

"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, Colorado Review

"In what is to my mind the strongest new book of poetry this year, Atsuro Riley's Heard-Hoard universalizes the trauma of a Carolina childhood. He restores the memories of what he heard —— the mountains of language that ensnare and liberate us all. It's a magnificent followup to his award-winning Romey's Order published eleven years ago. A long-awaited and satisfying book." (Michael Silverblatt)
BOOKWORM, Top Ten Books of 2021

"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 Heard-Hoard, his second collection, Riley lends his inimitable instrument to boyhood acquaintances and communal complaints: “We come gnawed by need on hands and knees." (Christopher Spaide)
BOSTON GLOBE, Best Books of 2021
"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
"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
"A landscape charged with the bright light of discernment, where emotions are stirred by rhythmic torsion and sonic density."
JULIE CARR
"The essential collection of our moment—what we've needed most without knowing it."
JESSE NATHAN, McSweeney's
"One of the most exciting books of poetry I've read in my life."
MICHAEL SILVERBLATT, Bookworm
"Haunting. . .Riley's oeuvre breaks new lyric ground with its singular style. This rich, polyphonic collection will keep readers entranced."
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Lush and strange, Riley’s voice is utterly transfixing. . .his vision is rich with luminous lines."
MAYA C. POPA, *The Poet's Nightstand* Poetry Society of America
"The collection calls us back to the roots of language, breaking it apart and putting it back together."
PLOUGHSHARES
"Riley captures the accents of his hardscrabble world through language worked to a country eloquence."
POETRY FOUNDATION