by Ishion Hutchinson
Library Journal Whiting Award winner Hutchinson here intensifies the promise of his debut, Far District, broadening his vision beyond the history and geography of his homeland, Jamaica, to encompass today's fraught world in visceral and richly compacted off-kilter lyric. Gold jingles in exploitation as "they talk Texas and the north cold,// but mostly oil and Obama," and a genie asks the speaker to build an ark "out of peril and slum/ things" where "I alone when blood and bullet and all Christ-fucking-'Merican-dollar politicians talk/ the pressure down to nothing." Even a poem that opens jauntily with the sighting of a red bicycle near the Ponte Vecchio moves quickly to recalling a mother's fury at her son's disobedience, as "the promised money/ didn't fall from my father's cold heaven in England." Yet there's also the desolate tenderness of seemingly spotting that father while "picking faces in the thick nest of morning's hard light" and a woman has a quiet moment as "the beauty of the trees stills her." No screeds, then, just true, vital stories, charged with emotion and a stunningly beautiful complexity of the language. VERDICT A challenging collection requiring careful reading to pick out the poet's full intent but definitely worth the effort. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly "History is dismantled music; slant,/ bleak on gravel," Hutchinson (Far District) writes in a second collection that sees him profiting highly from Emily Dickinson's dictum to tell the truth but tell it slant. In poetic suites more narrative and seamlessly associative than his previous work, Hutchinson melds Jamaica's history of political strife and the lives of its citizens into sensuous evocations of landscape: "After the hurricane walks a silence, deranged, white as the white helmets of government surveyors looking into roofless/ shacks." Hutchinson finds a dexterous register in which high and low diction strike sparks: "I mitre solid shadow, setting fire to snow in my ark./ I credit not the genie but the coral rock." His eye for local color elevates neighbors and relatives into figures of archetypal resonance, and his biting precision captures "Pure echo in the train's/ beam arriving on its cold nerve of iron." Informed both by sonorous biblical cadence and a fibrous Saxon lexicon of canonical Western references, Hutchinson's majestic lines snap like starched laundry in coastal wind: "drift-pocked, solitary/ ducks across the bay's industrial/ ruts." Yet this jaunty "ice-pick raconteur" is capable of stunning moments of visionary lyricism: "A soft light, God's idleness/ warms the skin of the lake." These poems herald the maturity of a major poetic voice. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list For his second full-length book of poetry, after the award-winning Far District (2010), Hutchinson has crafted a tightly knit, deeply resonant collection. Hutchinson's formal verse and measured lyrics disguise a frenetic energy by burning slowly to a sudden boil. The Small Dark Interior opens with a young child gazing longingly at a newly, delicately frozen pond but closes when the speaker's thoughts turn abruptly to forgiveness for his father. A Burnt Ship catalogs the spilled belongings from a ship's hold (sunken masks, / god's horn, perfume, ivory tusks, / market dust), before erupting in the expected, yet still unsettling conclusion that all were lost, all were destroyed. Other poems maintain a serene inner stillness, an even calm that complements the charged tension. Moved by the Beauty of Trees simply repeats phrases of beauty, green, and leaves, mimicking the natural sound of rolling foliage in soft breeze. The only downside is Hutchinson's affinity for short lines and short poems; readers will finish the collection longing for more. Fans of Yusef Komunyakaa, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Camille Rankine will especially enjoy Hutchinson's latest.--BŠez, Diego Copyright 2016 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.