Often times with poems I don't understand on first reading I will make a point of reading them aloud, slowly. This test is a real back breaker, a Litmus test I employ. I had to read much of Unus Mundus aloud, slowly.
These poems sound great when read aloud, the sophisticated language reveals its rhythmic structure and also its playful nature. With such a vast vocabulary at her disposal (if you are anything like me you will want to be looking up, have to be looking up, more than a few things) - Rowley is extremely articulate.
Unus Mundus is a book in six sections. There is a rambling rollick of a beginning with Prologue...In The Beginning wherein Rowley gives us a listing of her considerable interests, and with vigor. The second section is made up of the Space/Time Dialogues. These extraordinary poems are the imagined conversations between a range of characters that includes Plato, Einstein, Roy Orbison, Ptolemy, Van Gogh, Miro, Copernicus and TuPac Shakur among others. Mari-Lou Rowley is an encyclopedia of vivid imagination.
The third section, CosmoSonnets, continue the readers vast education and we are only half way home.
Arrows glint in the morning sun, flint flaked
to a perfect point. Between the eyes. Love
is like this. A doe goes down with a thud,
spill of blood on white snow. Its fawn
tumbles into the woods, all legs and fear;
it will be dead before dawn.
Lust of the hunt still fresh and beating,
hunters skin the flesh, or leave it
for wolves, taking only testicles, horns,
a young bear's paw. Sparrows above
mourn the torn bodies, sing small sad songs
of love and regret. Not worth the cost
of arrow or bullet, they are trivial and safe.
No lust but song to consume them.
Rowley has a ferociously active and fertile mind and she covers vast territories more easily than one can imagine. She does this with poetry that challenges and rewards in equal measure. The remaining three sections fulfill all the expectations the first three build. This is an experienced poet at the top of her game and in full control.
Rowley's poetry has won several awards, she has published eight previous collections (I have two, I will now be searching for the others) and she is now currently doing a PhD in new media, neuroplasicity, and empathy.
Unus Mundus surprised this reader in all of the best ways.