Centaurs, unicorns, and flying horses
are dreams, but these are possible to ride. (“Zebra”)
Royal Rhodes’s paean to beasts will surely delight. Inspired by the medieval bestiary, the collection is a series of 28 sonnets with animal subjects. Richly descriptive, invocative of medieval texts and fabliaux, the poems are felicitous of meanings associated with each beast. Being earthly and mythological, these beasts which breathe and die like us, partake of our imagination.
Royal takes each animal subject, riding along with it in myriad ways.
I ride hard naked, while the flying mane
whips me, purging me with ghostly pain. (“Horse”)
Does this give you an image of Lady Godiva?
As creatures, they clearly inform a teleological view of our universe—do you see God’s hand in them, does one need more evidence of a God?
The creature that we think bizarre and odd,
creating awe, no odder is than God. (“Kangaroo”)
Of course they’re also emblematic, and we need go no further than “Tiger” whose meaning is of “all our body’s burning,/tongue and touch”. Royal embraces that as a referent of mortality:
If you embrace the dread, the heart will know.
Only a mortal hand or eye could trace
and hold such rare ones close, and let them go,
while deadly terror shows its holy face. (“Tiger”)
The poems treat language with a sense of play, to switch meanings, generally using humor in generous dollops, rinsing out seriousness as a panacea probably.
The sea is rising. All our future ends,
when great white bears will swim where Broadway bends. (“Polar Bear”)
The final sonnet, “The True Zoo” sums up the menagerie nicely, a final indictment of man, but funny.
Download the collection here.
A Book of Beasts, The Illustrated Edition
Red Wolf is pleased to collaborate with Royal with a special illustrated edition. The animal subjects, it is thought, deserve a visual presentation. Irene, who took up the mantle, played the wild card. Untrained, yes, but does the result bring joy? Yes, we think! It led her to a close scrutiny of her animal subjects, and with it, an affirmation of their mesmerising beauty, even the darn spider! We hope you enjoy our serendipitous collaboration.