Linger, Still (Gaspereau Press, 2017)
Blurb: A textured brick-red cover stock and an embossed fox certainly encourage the reader to linger, sensuously, over the pages of this latest book of poems by Hunter as do, in particular, the lyrical sequence, OH, HEART and the individual lyrics in I Came to See the Beautiful Things. Hunter is an unabashed Romantic, the poems sprinkled with the awe-struck gasps of OOOOOs, though there’s little simple about her adorations, complexified as they are by the knowledge of mortality, extinction, ruin, loss and other inescapable, but graciously attended to, darknesses. Always poised and precise in her forms, even when her voice is steeped in grief, Hunter is unafraid of turning nouns into verbs or using unusual vocables to enable the reader to inhabit a variant reality that is also very much ours: “Oh age-spotted Earth, do not spite us, unmotor us back to the Greeks/we are already medievaling ourselves/sing a litany of rations, oracles of incalescence…” Recalling the fusion of mourning and rejoicing found in collections like Di Brandt’s Now You Care, Hunter’s Linger, Still, at its most singing, reveals a truly human pulse within the flower’s calyx.
Crits: At times, I found the voice too prosaic (a facility with phrasing that relentlessly soars in her novel The World Before Us) and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the necessity of the Anna K in Newfoundland section nor of the Heideggerian contextualizing of Esk (a writer’s retreat in Scotland), both seeming somwhat slight contrivances in terms of transference and occasion. Or perhaps I’ve just read too many amateurish poems that tread similar ground less effectively for my ears to fully open.
There will be a soon we cannot imagine/and words sought for that new colour –
songs that slip out of our heads,/plants we nurture that do not flower.
The sky will turn out its pockets like a street thug,/display its empty hands.
We will walk more miles than we thought possible/to kiss a lip of water.
The news will come in swarms/the broadcasters grown tired.
We will stand in gutted fields stung by/the unholy quiet,
stop speaking of golden things:/sunshine, loosestrife, rows of wheat, corn.
Words become locked boxes we push/ under our beds, store in gun cabinets.
Our laughter as canned as the reruns/pirated through satellite stations.
How easily we were once amused!/Duck Dynasty, 19 Kids and Counting –
the nature show where a man sticks his hand /down the throat of a crocodile and pulls out a radio.
The bees will have seen it coming,/our own fading signal – the distant
and zigzagging static/of our extinction –
now in front of us,/now behind.