The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

at first & then

Publication Date: February 2021


Winner of the Fall 2019 Black River Chapbook Competition

at first & then is radical, beautiful, propulsive. An Orphic tale of a body descending then rising again, the debut chapbook from poet Danielle Rose charts woven stories of addiction, grief, trauma, and, ultimately, gender—the essential pieces of personhood. Through struggle and loss, the poems in at first & then proceed like timid ghosts learning how to form language, gathering the disparate elements of selfhood into a warm coherency, a radical self-permission.

Rose writes the language of longing with a fierce acuity, but this is also a collection about fulfillment. “In both there is dancing,” Rose’s speaker says of the motion of the tides and of welcoming the divine. These are poems brimming with motion, with hunger, and with aching, full-bodied joy. “This must be how / we can bear to be so empty / so we can be so full.”

From at first & then

if the body is a prison-house where is the warden i have some complaints about the plumbing

“The idea that the body is a prison-house, to which the soul is condemned for past misdeeds, is attributed by Plato to the Orphics.”
—The Republic, trans. Cornford

they ask / if this is my body // & i lie say yes

it might start with the conspicuous absence of childhood photos—then a process of testing for misidentification—questions that begin with oh please suddenly a hot iron scratching my stomach—& so i am learning to call unpleasant histories by their real names—such as what i demand of love—& that i used to be a boy—to think that if this body was a prison what happened when i escaped—i know that poetry is not light—& that we do not need another word for empty—i still do not know how to say that he put his hands all over me—or that i wanted to like it even though i did not—to think a dove will fly 1,500 miles to fuck & sometimes i can’t even leave the couch—even plato does not want to admit responsibility so he blames someone else too

Danielle Rose reads from AT FIRST & THEN for the Black Lawrence Press Virtual Reading Series



at first & then is a transition narrative, but not in the ways it is expected to be. Instead, charting a kind of transition along parallel lines of gender, addiction, grief, trauma, and a shifting sexuality. Rose deftly writes through a range of interdisciplinary lenses—cartography, cooking, philosophy, linguistics, anatomy, ornithology, and more—toward a new understanding of a changing self. The end result is a panoramic portrait of the speaker-subject rendered in frantic syntax and with striking lyrical precision. Each poem laced with loss and intimately aware of “how loss reveals a new language.” Page by page, Rose guides the reader deeper into the uncharted and shadowy corners of this language, but warns us “that poetry is not light—& that we do not need / another word for empty.”
—torrin a. greathouse, author of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound

Danielle Rose is a poet who keeps her eye close to the ground in which we are raised—close to the categories which define (and often displace) us. To the extent that the feminine is reclaimed, analogies from nature are used to reveal or subvert finality, as in the migration patterns of mourning doves, the “toward or away,” the incessant motion. As Rose notes, the tools we have are insufficient—the body map, itself, “a violence.” I could not put this book away, and I will never forget it.
—Alina Stefanescu, author of Objects in Vases and Every Mask I Tried On

About the Author

© Lola Arellano-Fryer

Danielle Rose

Danielle Rose is the author of at first & then. Her work can be found in Palette Poetry, Pithead Chapel, Hobart Pulp, and The Shallow Ends.

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