Academic journal article Field

Mystery Is Belief

Academic journal article Field

Mystery Is Belief

Article excerpt

Cynthia Hogue, Revenance (Red Hen, 2014)

Cynthia Hogue's Revenance inspects loss and grief with a keen calm that overturns Emily Dickinson's famous description of surviving pain through emotional freezing and the courteous restraint of "formal feeling." In this generous collection where not one poem seems extra or out of place, Hogue addresses many kinds of loss- days lost to sleep, eyeglasses lost to distraction, precious conversation lost to faulty recording devices, parents lost to disease and age. The experiences of these bereavements, trivial and profound, accumulate in the context of one another to show the explosive potential of "grief's sudden / capacious charge." These poems, while admirably diverse in form, tone, and use of the page, illustrate the notion Lorine Niedecker poses in "Sorrow moves in wide waves," where sorrow is a force, like waves or words pushing or passing through us, that seems to disregard, yet also is affected by our presence. Hogue's poetry explores the ways this force impels us towards more intimate connections with ourselves and the world.

Loss and the pain it causes are often articulated in isolating and static terms, as if they are discrete phases of life one moves through and past, like a winter landscape, sometimes craving or succumbing to their numbing powers. Revenance travels at times through the "tense / sudden silence of blizzard, the whiteout"-tropes of abjection; but it also carefully observes far less familiar manifestations of suffering, including the intensifications and transformations of awareness they may bring. Hogue's work mourns, but it also marvels at the power pain awakens. In "Revenant (1)," the impression and collapse of repetitious days (lived by those tending the dying and the bereft) unfurl in a kind of synesthetic witness:

Evenings a rose window, wormhole,

gyre appears in the wood, not round,

exactly: tree limbs from mono-

chromatic tesserae darken to scarlet

shot through with the last

blue light as time

shifts to false account:

I'm more alert to hear.

Hogue's thoughtful word and line breaks capture at once the slowing and strangeness of days passing and the luxuriant particulars revealed through the difficult labor of waiting, as one both dreads and seeks the arrival of the dead. This poem, like many others in the collection, recall Walter Benjamin's prediction that film would radically alter perceptions of the human body's most ordinary, unnoticed movements by letting us see them frame by frame. …

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