There is a lot to say about Danielle Rose’s debut chapbook, “at first & then.” I could talk about how it starts with a beautiful dead body and ends in a trilogy of joy, and how that is an obvious metaphor. I could tell you, if Rose decided to give a craft talk on titles alone, I would slam my fist, fanning with twenties, on the table and scream, “Here, take my money!” I mean, her title, “if the body is a prison-house where is the warden i have some complaints about the plumbing” is a thing of wonder.
But those are not the praises my heart is compelled to sing. When I first read this chapbook, I was gobsmacked. It’s phenomenal. I made copious notes on things I would be excited to write about. Then I encountered this line:
“i want to be for once sitting so still like lakewater at dawn but i am six families of four frolocking on the beach rubbing sunscreen laughing splashing in the shallow disturbed water not discussing how they all hate each other”
To use a common saying, I have never felt more seen. Rose has absolutely nailed a feeling that my fingertips have been brushing against for decades. I, too, am frantic and self-deprecating, when I really just want to be self-possessed and stiller than a photographed suicide.