"Ratto Parks’ (Song of Days, Torn and Mended, 2015, etc.) mosaic novel pieces together the inner life of a woman through a succession of prose poems.
After alliteratively establishing her 'normalcy' in the prologue—'Before you know the rest, you should know this: I live in a pleasant house on a quiet street in a modern-day Mayberry with mountains'—Ratto Parks’ protagonist proceeds to tell of her most irregular inner being in a series of poetic vignettes. The pieces focus on a man, perhaps a muse, perhaps a ghost, or maybe an adult version of an imaginary friend, a conjured personification of cravings, desires, and thwarted fulfillment; he is sometimes a lover, sometimes cruel, and sometimes just a friend playing catch with a baseball. Ratto Parks’ work is contemplative and original: 'I sat at the end of the long hall of myself watching my life while I witnessed all of those sacred places invaded' or 'the silent ghost of old traffic made every sound bright.' She augments her own polished verse with references, allusions, and outright quotes from a wide variety of people and sources: Dante, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, R.M. Rilke, and even John Wayne. Hallucinatory and dreamlike, the author repeatedly considers themes of loss either in water ('Then we finally gave in to the stones in our pockets and we sank through the salt brine') or simply into thin air ('off like kites blowing endless through the ether'). Throughout, her dream man and dream land prove as fickle as reality. He often comes and goes at whim; appearing and disappearing without warning: 'He was there after the rain, in the night lawns, thick and arcing, and I could feel him leaving me, falling away from the fabric of human air.'
Brilliant, at once dense and ethereal; rewards multiple readings."
“What if the Muse arrives ‘all biceps and brawn…in a leather jacket of disinterest,’ holding a golden gun he puts to your heart? In this potent fever-dream of a conceit, Amy Ratto Parks not only radicalizes the paradigm, she enacts the brutal consequences, both existential and quotidian, of responding to the call. Classically speaking Radial Bloom is a descent, an urgent journey into the interior that is never top-heavy — imagine Julian of Norwich, Baudelaire, and John Wayne sitting at the bar with Dante pouring shots — and is impossible to put down.”
~ Chris Dombrowski, author of Body of Water
“The remaking of the self — be it through mania, depression, obsession, or heartache — can be an otherworldly experience, rendered here in Radial Bloom as a cinematic and transcendent act. For those of us tucked safely into a life that has been domesticated by a partner or children, there is the tendency to wonder where that person we were before has disappeared to. We wonder not about long-gone pleasures, but about longing itself, a kind of yearning that attended and sustained us for years with its sweet, familiar pain. The answer is that it’s all still there, inside us, like it’s always been. A lingering ache in the gut, a punch that still reverberates like distant thunder on a cloudless day. Amy Ratto Parks is the antidote to the part of us that reflexively dismisses our more complicated selves. This book is her big middle class, mid-life, multi-layered, mommy middle finger raised high, and I will follow it anywhere, especially right off this safe little cliff I’ve been perched on for years.”
~ Keetje Kuipers, author of The Keys to the Jail and editor at Poetry Northwest