Aroma Truce (Black Lawrence Press, 2017)
The poems in Terrell Jamal Terry’s Aroma Truce announce their arrival with language that is both instinctual and inevitable, “the same way as weather,” the speaker tells us in the opening poem. Each poem creates its own stunningly perfect world, yet somehow each of these worlds manages to open up and say something about the one we inhabit. Through this continual unfolding, this is a book for our time, a book of both “frail worry” alongside “stubborn hope,” a book that offers desire alongside what one might hope for others: “I would like goodness & to be good.”
An auspicious and powerful debut, never satisfied with the seam between the spiritual and the sensual, the anecdotal and the merely true. “Don’t guess,” Terry admonishes—indeed, every line of these poems feels hard-won from the guesswork of experience and language. “Do I go too far / with this?” Terry asks; “That’s not everything. / Animals & rain. My body, it stings.”
The fifty-four poems in Aroma Truce, my debut full-length collection, allude to a spontaneous apprehension of experience, weaving a lyrical carnival of oblique and recognizable visuals. The words of this work were laid onto literary canvases in Seattle/Kent, WA and Raleigh, NC, with a fruitful beginning in early 2012, and resolution by mid-2015. Final edits were completed in Pittsburgh, PA, where I currently reside. What I’ve attempted to convey in this note, is that I wrote these poems during and after many years of personal crisis—years of disregarding the details (communication, responsibility, etc.) of living.
What is the texture of choice? Imagine desiring to embody a vague form of self-destruction and transcendence simultaneously. The sensations and disparate identities within all of “my” speakers seemingly came from nowhere, but begged to become examined, expressed and reclaimed, to find a place or path through the art and craft of poetry. Eventually, following a slow navigation across certain inevitable “anxieties of influence,” I was able to create and enter a wild new forest to search and consider, if not entirely inhabit. Obsessive study, practice, chance and urgency informed this adventure and aspiration.
Of course, the uniqueness as well as universality of human emotion often strikes us strangely: from subtle passion via olfactory nerves and complex arrangements of memory, meaning and individual understanding, to humble gardens cultivated despite the intensity of darker thoughts—there is perhaps a joyous intimation that our very real biographies are substantial and elusive enough.