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Wednesday October 18, 2017
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Christine Hume

 

continued

scientific name of the common housefly.

And there is a lot we can learn from that alone. This poet is comfortable with the Latin words and all the scientific weight they carry. I suspect she enjoys any possible play on the word "domestic" in there, and I think I can detect a couple of other puns lurking in those two words. In the very first poem she gives us a lengthy series of definitions and dictionary attributions for the word fly: "Do what we can, summer will have its flies"; "He grasps the wand that causes sleep to fly"; "the high arc of a ball that has been struck" — and many more. All of these things are fun, but also, by their very diversity, they call into question our understanding of what we might have thought at first was a very simple, mundane word, even a domesticated word.

These considerations make Hume's work sound difficult, and on first look it might seem so. She is constantly pushing and probing at the words we use, putting them in new contexts, applying their scientific or other specialized usages, so that we have to imagine them differently. But if we are willing to follow her flights, we find elaborate and beautiful structures that help us to see things in a new way.

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