Review of Christine Hume's Shot - Robert Fontella
published by Counterpath Press
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A third of our lives are spent in a place that is difficult to remember. What happens in the dark while we sleep? Christine Hume’s latest book of poetry, Shot, attempts to chart this territory, though not through an account of eccentric dreams but instead by an exploration of that which emerges when so much of our selves disappear. This project is presented as unmediated reportage without the polite reflection that might otherwise attempt to order events in deference to the integrity of the waking self. Those daily hours spent in vacancy are effectively captured by Hume as a kind of private and frequently lost personal history where the self is unbound, where the energy holding up the display of identity dissipates. Here, necessarily, this departure that is precipitated by sleep is narrated with candor and attempts to imaginatively explore the phenomena in its entirety.
As a result work as a whole has the quality of something eerily familiar, like that of barely recognizing your own recorded voice, or glimpsing a reflection on the periphery that disappears when examined directly. There is a kind of recovery of lost moments being presented in Hume’s project. And while this ethereal topic has been frequently treated by fantastic literature or the surreal in service of an alternate or provocative truth, Shot refreshingly approaches the experience more directly through an unadorned, matter of fact voice; which is not to say it lacks any nuance or variety in the forms employed. There are brief question driven poems, others assembled in tight couplets, the presence of distinct voices, prose poetry, and a closet play. Furthermore, the passages exhibit a flexibility of style employing both the direct and complex; frequently, in brilliant contrast, the lucid will float on intricate twists of syntax, as a jeweler might set a simple stone on folded, golden lace. After a series of disparate images there is the simple enunciation of, “My shadow sat on its stolen body” (8); or similarly, in the lengthy poem, “Between the Way Out and the Way Home” (74):
…Moth-like lights in your mouth
Taste of tungsten and fungus
You know the river will carry whatever you throw in
…Swallows diving into barren water
Someone is always standing on the bridge…
Frequently, even in the more lyrical poems of the collection, the “I” is fleeting and in the distance as it disappears approaching the solitude of sleep. The result, throughout the work, is a presentation of a kind of bifurcated self, one waking identity held together by energy that is obligated to surrender its will, where, as the poet says, “Night gnaws and unknots the anchor” and “A hole in each memory grows” (25,36). The significance of Shot is the territory it treats as its subject and the manner in which it proceeds by attempting to navigate the forgotten hours. In the construction of the works there is an emphasis on concrete images, employed in ways similar to Robert Bly’s ‘deep image’ poetry, in that the descriptions by themselves are readily identifiable but taken together, in consort, serve as a means to reveal that which would otherwise be unconscious and hidden.
Shot is an invitation into a disquieting landscape in which we all must succumb where a projected and distinctive self departs. What is presented is an engaging map of a common but shadow continent that suggests on its edge there’s a coat room where one must check their conscious identity before falling and then emerging to re-inhabit names and faces. In the end, Christine Hume manages to realistically illuminate a portion of an experience often left in the dark without sacrificing detail or deflating that mystery’s potency—no small feat.
Christine Hume’s works include: Musca Domestica (Beacon Press 2000), Alaskaphrenia (New Issues 2004), and Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense, a chapbook and CD (Ugly Duckling Presse 2007). She is currently the coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at Eastern Michigan University and hosts Poetry Radio every Sunday at 8 p.m. (EST):
- review by Robert Fontella 2010
Robert Fontella is the author of a book of poetry, Lines Through (Seetalk 2010). A bi-lingual play of his, Clown Crossing, will be performed at the 2010 Arizona Fringe Festival. He is currently pursuing a MFA in creative writing though the University of New Orleans.
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