By Christine Hume. (Counterpath Press, 2009)

 

Christine Hume dwells so near the spine of language in her new book Shot that it brings a psychic territory into stunning focus. The ontological chamber here includes sleeplessness and states of altered sleep and wakefulness, while night becomes as seethingly alive as it  was for Baudelaire or Djuna Barnes. The poems adopt various formats but often contain rhythmic devices, such as anaphora and single word repetitions, that give them a mode of seriality and sequencing: “You may pound this night as much as you please / You will never pound into me what you think / You say the contrary, and the lashings madden / Night thinks you should pay for it / Pound at your belief until it’s empty of you” (“Um, Um…”) This poem as well as several others is made up of a litany of unfinished sentences with each behaving as its own stanza. These poems feel suspended yet they’re tethered to common words and rhythms. The language is torqued with drama and the urgency of speech acts, while rhythms trigger a physical reaction as in an incantation or lullaby. Even as the language performs in order to persuade or induce, “Let a wolf lope out of a word out of a fog”  (“Some Are Born to Endless”), a feverish combativeness ruptures the spell. What occurs under night’s sovereignty must be endured. Sometimes it feels as if one has stumbled on a brightly lit capsule in the middle of the night where an interrogation or operation is underway or a film is being “shot.” A wilderness is evident here, too, Dantesque with shades and beasts, which seems to give words and syntax a sense of permission and abandon: “Werewolf werewatch the muzzle in the ugh comes here comes the hum” (“Telempathy”). Words and phrases are compelled to unfold, distort, and even morph multiple times, producing lush neologisms and portmanteau words, such as “gallopbark,” “limedusk,” “sweatwilds.” In the complex and ruptured theatre of this book a self emerges that yearns for transformations and perhaps a release from itself. The periodic engagement with demands and limitations of the physical body, including a mother’s body, re-awakens for the reader the presence of a speaker. In the last poem “I Exhume Myself” the author puns on her own name and moves toward a gesture of resolution with lines that finally end in periods: “I don’t root down into your dream. / I will not dig a fetus out of my throat. / My hands will never find it.” This book is electrifyingly gorgeous. Christine Hume sings from inside the language.

 

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