Bloom in Reverse chronicles the aftermath of a friend’s suicide and the end of a turbulent relationship, working through devastation and loss while on a search for solace that spans from local bars to online dating and beyond to ultimately find true connection and sustaining love. Things move backwards, from death to life, like a reverse time-lapse video of a dead flower morphing from brittle, scorched entity to floral glory to nacsent bud. The poems seek to find those places where the natural world connects to and informs experiences at the core of human relationships, and at times call upon principles and theories from physics and mathematics to describe the complexities of love and loss. It’s a book where grief, melancholy, heartbreak, and disillusionment intersect with urban romanticism, hope, possibility, and love. Bloom is all of it, the terrible and the beautiful.
In the aftermath of a friend's suicide, Teresa Leo's speaker mourns, while attempting, out of forced necessity, to find life within death. The poems move like children led by an unknown hand through a dark hallway—trusting, yet questioning. In 'Bloom in Reverse,' Leo reveals that healing comes from the world pulling forward, matched with our ability to follow, to receive a hand, regardless of our understanding.
Following the jagged emotional trajectory of the aftermath of a friend's suicide and the dissolution of a difficult romantic relationship, the poems confront devastation and push past it. . . . It is, however, recurring images from the plant world that provide Leo a metaphoric path to recovery.
In poems that are exquisitely crafted and deftly arranged, the book's four sections journey through the stages of grief, tracing a narrative art that opens in death and ends with 'the living ready to burst / through the dead.'
From the dedication page, Teresa Leo's 'Bloom in Reverse' props itself against the fence between the living and the dead. Dedicated to the living but in memory of Leo's friend Sarah, the poems carry the dual burden of trauma and memory. How do we process, how do we articulate trauma? If we're at all like Leo, we recognize that in art, in poetry, we remember the Sarahs of the world and bring them into a collective consciousness. She is not forgotten. . . .[This collection] brings old hurts to the surface, no matter how long you've buried the memories of your own grief, but it reminds us that memory, in the end, is all we have. You can't bring them back, but you can choose to remember.
Her poems are as fierce as they are graceful and as unsettling as they are controlled. Leo's gorgeous language, inventive imagery, and full-tilt intensity make her a modern-day Emily Dickinson with a sledgehammer and Grrl Power moxie . . . 'Bloom in Reverse' leads the reader to the vibrancy of the survivor's blossoming.
Clarity of feeling and insight still fight the battle for 'hipness' in American poetry, but Teresa Leo makes a large cut into the cold caverns of conceptualism by chronicling a friend's suicide in a way that feels breathless and moving. Such amplitude and precision masterfully locate love and grief, making Bloom in Reverse a new frontier for being in the world and surviving.
The nobility of Teresa Leo's poems is that they are not disposed to hide from the dark—rather, they display a mind that tends toward obsession and brooding, that works against fatality like fingers at a knot. The firm, attentive mind on display and the lucid unfolding of the poems are the life instinct seeking and finding its way through again and again. Love and beauty are the argument, but they don't win easily. Bloom in Reverse works through elegy toward survival with moving persistence, both driven and compelling.
Teresa Leo's Bloom in Reverse remembers a friend lost too soon, attempts to 'disremember' a callous lover, and emerges beautiful and wise, with unexpected, true connection. Couplets, haiku, fragments, and a sestina shape the elegiac fury and grief surrounding loss and obsession, each deepening and sometimes reversing memory. These poems serve as an honest homage to female camaraderie, as well as the sly and unpredictable nature of romantic love. Leo's voice is honest and mesmerizing, both social—Tilt-A-Whirl and Skee-Ball and online dating—and inward—trapped inside a house for a month with only a wretched fly. She is a passionate and profoundly lyrical storyteller.
Forceful and romantic. . . [Leo] lets us experience exactly what putting a life back together might look like if portrayed in cinematic framing. This is a book in which physically reconstructing one's immediate perception of things is essential for survival.
Teresa Leo is the author of the poetry collection The Halo Rule, which won the Elixir Press Editors’ Prize. She is the recipient of a Pew fellowship, a Leeway Foundation grant, two Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships, and the Richard Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review. Her poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She serves on the board of Musehouse, a center for the literary arts in Philadelphia, and works at the University of Pennsylvania.learn more