From where I stand
by Keith Taylor
For the past fifteen years or more, New Issues Press, associated with Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, has been doing the essential work of finding new poets, making sure their work gets into print, and getting the books out in the world so they can be found by the small audience that looks for these things. Over the years it has published several books by poets working in Ann Arbor and has now added a small wonder to the list. She'd Waited Millennia, by Lizzie Hutton, is a memorable first book built around a strong ear for the musicality of language, an eye for the vivid remembered detail of childhood, and a willingness to come to admirable philosophic conclusions about experience.
Hutton starts her book by re-creating the glorious solipsism of childhood. Early on she writes:
The inflexible language of girlhood, see, combinedAs promising as this hard self-knowledge is, Hutton is certainly not content to stay in it. She can write wonderful poems about a first sexual encounter--and, particularly, poems that turn on startling and troubling images from what appear to have been some childhood time spent in India--but she certainly isn't content to stay in the past. Thoughts and images about her marriage and her children are always ready to take the poet and her readers out of the individual experience and connect with the larger shared experience of the world.
with my various shynesses, meant
my insides seemed profounder that anything I'd do--
it seemed I'd done enough just by having been invented
She writes vividly of natural images, as in her description of a milkweed pod "now broken open echoingly // like the belly / of a lute // that lets loose some stray / wind-born notes, // the source now shredded, summer-torn." Although we can't re-create the look of that poem as it dances irregularly around the page, the words capture some sense of its play. But I think Lizzie Hutton and the poems in this first book
are best when she combines her strengths of sound and description to come to some understanding of the place she is writing from. "Marriage has," she writes:
a beautiful, thickety sameness,At first glance that last phrase--that insistence that marriage is seen from one place by one person--might seem unnecessary. But on second thought, and remembering all the poems around, I think that it is essential.
like the barely
dripping constant rain in our boxed backyard, its wet
branches with its few clinging leaves spiraling slowly in
and out of being visible and lit, from where I stand.
Lizzie Hutton reads from She'd Waited Millennia in Room 3222, Angell Hall, on December 6.
[Originally published in December, 2011.]