July 15, 2009

Review by Marilyn McCabe

ONEIROMANCE
by Kathleen Rooney

Switchback Books
PO Box 478868
Chicago, IL 60647
ISBN 978-0-978612-3-3
2007, 62 pp., $14.00
www.switchbackbooks.com

The poems in Oneiromance, the 2007 Gatewood Prize winner from Switchback Books, may be dreams, as many are designated by their titles, but Kathleen Rooney is wide awake to the comic and terrifying possibilities of life in an institution – the institution of marriage, that is. There is little divine in these divinations, little romance in this oneiromancy; and yet these songs do honor the bride and the bridegroom, two brave individuals casting aside all fears to clutch each other’s sweaty hands and enter the chamber of “’til death do us part.”

In five sections plus an epilogue, Rooney presents the dreams and “scrapbooks” of a bride and groom in their abundance of weddings and honeymoons, a wedding in Brazil and one in the Midwest, and honeymoons in Brazil and Niagara Falls, plus the simultaneous weddings both in Brazil and the US of the bride’s sister. The characters are awash in weddings. No wonder their dreams are full.

The unruly and vivid dreams and lively scrapbooks are contained in neat poems that run down the page like church aisles, or ribbon across the page in couplets. The lines pulse with three and four beats. The language is rich with internal rhymes and word play, such as this, from “Brazilian Wedding: Dream No. 3” :

Ambulatory sisters—
sister somnambulists—
sorority of sleep-hikers—
we are crossing a bridge.

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