Written for the occasion of her 9/9/16 reading at Littman Gallery.
It’s a rare treat to encounter a book of poems that defies comparison from beginning to end. Here tonight, Bay Area poet Carrie Hunter will read from just such a book, Orphan Machines, her latest from Black Radish Books. Hunter explores language, theory (particularly that of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari), perception, and the different forms a poem can assume, with a deftness that while machine-like is never cold, keeping the reader totally engaged.
In this language and form tour de force, Orphan Machines is full of surprising and incomparable lines that, because and regardless of how much they differ from the logic to which ordinary speech adheres, elevate a reader’s intellectual and emotional responses. This aspect is my favorite thing about poetry — its multifaceted power to affect one’s consciousness.
The poems throughout the book’s twelve sections bear a remarkable formal design and a lively syntax, by which Hunter has integrated local and quotidian experiences otherwise resistant to high-art stuff. Hunter’s poems resonate in the various ways that contemporary writing like this should, doing a poet’s job to not completely turn their back on so-called real life. Hunter doesn’t leave behind the everyday, in its absurdity and fragmentation, with a cacophony of sounds (here I deliberately avoid the typical, sentimental poeticism of “music,” which doesn’t do justice to these poems the way that sound does), images, philosophical problems, and the bewildering though not unpleasant juxtaposition of clarity and confusion.
And finally, to get this show on the road as the old timey saying goes, Hunter’s poems also protest the everyday, or at least its staid waking conventions that hold a person back. “What I dream, I can dream, I dream it, it is real, it is a real dream” goes the first poem from “After Etymology” as fittingly, as touchingly as ever.