Poetry Editor Clara Burghelea reviews Voice to Voice in the Dark, a poetry collection by Tim Hunt, scheduled for release July 15, 2022, from Broadstone Books.
Tim Hunt’s Voice to Voice in the Dark cinematically captures the “America of the mind” of the last half of the 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st. At times, such a projection fails to match the real world, yet the poet invites the audience to take comfort and find meaning in art.
The collection’s structure is well-thought, guiding the reader along and teaching them how to enter and exit its parts. The poem captures a moment, a mood, a snippet of reality that gives a sense of the expectations and sets up the tone of the collection:
The strata of sediment,
and a tear of rust like leached mascara
staining a faded fender
as if there were, once, stories,
and they might be remembered
The first section, Poetry for Bread opens with “Vachel Lindsay Walks the Roads of Kansas Offering Poems for Bread” that speaks of food that nourishes the body -the bread- and the soul -poetry. In between, there is the beauty of nature and its seduction of the reader’s senses.
The collection sings America’s idyllic natural spots and its urban patches, at times in harmony, sometimes in sheer contrast. In “Winter Landscape, Dusk (Chicago, January 2010)”, modern people with their lattés walk fast with their cell phones chattering “that’s like the creek’s whispered spray/ as the sun grays through the tangled branches.”
The diurnal landscape collides with the “the language of smoke” in the following poem of the same title, where the speaker details the noir atmosphere of the 1940s movies where “as the smoke eddies into the night.” Again, a fleeting instant captured in the layers of a fleshy poem.
Tim Hunt carefully leads the reader along as if the collection itself were a road movie built up of well-wrought scenes that are infused with emotions, without being sappy. Thus, the noir of the previous poem echoes into the “Woman with white gloves and a pocket book, N.Y.C. 1956 (Photograph, Diane Arbus)” written as a first-person narration of her pose with “the white gloves my center.”
Tim Hunt has a passion for music, as is beautifully chronicled in his collection, Ticket Stubs & Liner Notes (Main Street Rag, 2018). This passion is echoed in “Night Out,” a poem that once again encapsulates a state of mind, an instant of karaoke fun, before the speaker leaves the premises to dart into the night. More freight trains, more winding roads, more cheap motels, and the story of this vivacious, colorful, loud America becomes so palpable it hurts. The poet urges the reader to “forget the actual America we have become” in “A Truck Stop in Kansas” and to hear the music of these places that may take many forms yet soothe the heart and mind.
The next two sections of the collection are each preceded by an interlude, once again reminding the reader of the poet’s affection for all that is music bound and standing as a respiring moment or an invitation to lay back and enjoy the view. Most of the poems in the last section refer to the poet’s childhood place, Sebastopol and are an opportunity to address his young self, his mother, or a former lover. They are imbued with the same musical taste and seducing innocence that are a feature of Tim Hunt’s work:
And even on the little phonograph on your bedroom floor,
the voice is so much life
that it is larger than life, and you are some kind of Tom
wanting to be Huck
The collection ends with a Coda, the poem that concludes the journey, with its filmic and dancing mood. It is an invitation to the reader to dream of “the America of the mind” while anchored in the everyday America, to embrace both and think of their poetry as their daily bread:
Let us glory
in the play of light it draws
through the soldered fragments
of colored glass, and how, in this
story, a farther shore
welcomes home the drifting boat.
Tim Hunt is the author of four poetry collections and various scholarly publications. A university professor, he taught American Literature at several universities, received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his work and was awarded the Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize for the poem “Lake County Elegy.”