With a smudge of fantasy and a tinge of speculation, Amy Roa in her collection, Radioactive Wolves, paints a picture of living a poor life and the struggles that accompany it. In the poem “Radioactive Wolves”, a poem in which the title of the collection is taken after, Amy explains how she has “seven sisters, all named Wendy”. She is not ashamed to mention that their “house has no roof.” It is not just the subject matter treated by Amy that gives weight to the poem and the entirety of her collection, but the manner and language in which she uses. In her words “I have seven sisters, all named Wendy, each of them have their/own separate dreams where they’re cuddling a sleek black pony./They write to several government officials offering their services to charge into battle, ready to fight communism./our house has no roof. The sunlight breathes down, settles in among the furniture like a guest.” Reading the above quoted lines, one can notice how her sisters all dream of having ponies—which in that context is a symbol for a good life. Subsequently in the poem, one of her sisters, uncertain of their condition asks “things aren’t so bad, are they”. This further reinforces the sorrow and strife painted by Amy.
Characterized by the abundance of hardship and struggles, Amy admits grieving. Through a speculative language, Amy describes how much grief “lived inside the attic of ”her “inner ear”. However, here, it isn’t much about grief as it is about the absence of language that could best describe her grief. This goes on to evoke sympathy since most of us know that the inability to express what one feels is an ordeal on its own, one in which Amy is currently passing through in the poem “Cosmonauts” as she says “No one knew what to do about the illness crawling the air out of the lungs./still, I set my ctenophore trap and caught a no-name species of free-floating comb jellies./brought to the surface, their cilia felt like an Icy comet’s leftovers,/like touching the trail of stones and ice that lingered./They scattered along their tentacles flashes of blue, flashes of green./they didn’t like it here, didn’t like the dogs scurrying,/the shadows hatched by the sea grape leaves./So off they went./I only meant to look at them for a short while,/to tell them the grief that lived inside the attic of my inner ear,/the language I would use,/if only I knew the words.”
One thing I especially love about Amy’s Radioactive Wolves is the style and language in which she has chosen. The usage of a speculative style and language allows for her to experiment new things thus making her work a set in motion where the reader, at every read, will always encounter new things. It jolts the reader’s mind and makes them ponder as well as contemplate the ideas and subject matter prevalent in the collection. Amy takes us to places like Jupiter, the Milky Way, Florida, and even “unknown places”. She also shows us creatures like, mermaids, sentient robots, free-floating comb jellies, unicorns as well as creatures that have no name. A poem in the collection that portrays the speculative language used by Amy in a very short way is the poem “Island” as can be seen thus;
The man marooned on a desert island
Groomed a rock like a doll
To distract himself from
Conversing with herring gulls.
He hadn’t known any of them at all. They were drifters.
When he was a boy, he’d stayed awake for a lunar eclipse that
Never materialized, and instead witnessed a ghost on the loose
The ghost had been a drifter too.
It said it was looking for its body.
Last it’d seen it,
It was shivering uncontrollably,
Likely dying of pneumonia.
Amy’s Radioactive Wolves is an intriguing collection, full of adventure, full of ponies, unicorns, Jupiter, the milky, science, and the struggle to survive the nagging hardship of the world.