... nothing short of exquisite. Laid bare in these pages is a map of holes that reveal pain and death, as the question of whether or not to continue on in the face of suffering is illuminated. Tierney serves as a sort of backwards prophet of dark visions inviting us to experience past and present realities of illness and grief. We witness not just his memories, but also those that he has borrowed from others ... Don’t be fooled by this volume’s slim size (yes, even for a book of poetry, it appears meager in its 80 pages): these poems are intimate and unyielding. Rise and Float is rife with the ghosts of Tierney’s experiences, ancestors, and friends—those that are gone but are still very present in the author’s mind and, now, on the page ... Because of Tierney’s consistent eloquence and penchant for smart, compelling rhythm, reading Rise and Float is a fluid, albeit dark, journey, perhaps not unlike what it feels like to travel through a wormhole or some strange dream ... Tierney doesn’t draw clear distinctions between physical or emotional afflictions, or what is memory and what is present reality, which makes this such a refreshing collection. We tend to overcomplicate things, asking for proof, examining criteria for a diagnosis, doubting people’s experience of reality. Perhaps, Tierney seems to suggest, pain is pain, and the question of whether to continue on in the face of suffering is universal, though lived out in different ways. If you venture deep enough into these poems, intellectually and emotionally, you will see that everything Tierney discusses is just another facet of the same conundrum ... While Tierney catalogs a lineage of pain, he does so with delicacy and finesse. Scenes of death and loss are not bereft of color and life ... Tierney exhibits tremendous care for both his tragic subjects and his craft as he blends the past with the present ... we might be grateful for the way that Tierney so eloquently mapped out strains of suffering in this collection ... Tierney is reestablishing today the reality of shared journeys of grief, suffering, and survival. It has been a long time since I’ve read a debut collection that stirred me as deeply as Rise and Float, and I highly anticipate more poems of beauty and truth from this poet.
You might identify Brian Tierney’s masterful Rise and Float with the subject matter it delicately, woundedly, explores: the many strains of suffering brought together under the insufficient language of 'mental illness,' and the far-reaching webs of pain and memory they engender ... But the book’s most distinctive feature is the experience of constant motion, as the poems enact a continuous search for religious consolation, which is sometimes called 'meaning,' and sometimes 'metaphysics,' a search pursued all the more sincerely because it is known to be foreclosed. That motion leaves its signature and its stage direction at every level, from the breaking of syntax across the fall of one line and its healing in the first word of the next ... Though the little rifts in language that these poems make visible once may have opened toward consolation, the reader sensitized by this book’s scarred and cynic knowledge will come to feel them as lures for false feeling, requiring the repeated, painful sacrifice of consolation in the name of honesty. This is quite dark. As is the book. But even what doesn’t console may compensate, and if Rise and Float’s search for salvific meaning fails, the language, gorgeous in its precision, remains as its own testament of perseverance ... This is a book that rises despite what it knows, celebrates the float of disbelief that poetic language allows, and mourns the precise place on the linoleum where those mirages fail.
The book’s five sections traverse suicide, nostalgia, grief, gratitude, and the turbulent personal interior—all while maintaining a reverence for the customary details of existence ... is, if anything, a testament to Brian Tierney’s mastery of diction and form. Like migraines, he possesses the galvanizing and mind-twisting ability to transform our perceptions, as well as our ideas surrounding those perceptions ... Tierney shows that the lowest points of human experience also prompt us to view the world in a new light, implying that an unfamiliar but authentic vibrance may be an unintended aftereffect of anxiety, depression, loss, or suffering. At other times, though, his poems can be jarringly straightforward ... Tierney takes a humane approach and tenderly guides his readers toward a settlement with ever-present grief.