Thinking Through Carrie Hunter's The Incompossible

Patrick James Dunagan

       Articulation is a device.” (“Rejoinder”)

The Incompossible, Carrie Hunter’s first full length collection of poems, is comprised of short prose poems divided into five subtitled sections. Readable in a single stretch, this variant take on the serial poem is a looked for follow up to her earlier chapbook length poem A Musics (arrow as aarow, 2010). The form here, as there, is kept tightly held in language sounded out. Short staccato sentences come clustered in rapid fire short blocks on the page.

Philosophy’s morality tale. Closing the blinds. Worlds that are not the world. The indecipherable spoken aloud. I want to look in my own eyes but can only do so through trickery.  (“Allegory”)

Coy and fun loving in fractured bits, the leaps of weird logic and suddenly bursting hints at deep insight provide centering for the poems. You don’t have to know much of anything about Hunter or where she’s coming from in terms of poetic lineage or textual plundering to enjoy her writing. What autobiography that there may be to be found here is veiled and subsumed beneath her enthusiasm for the turn of phrase possibility held both within and between sentences.

Where I sometimes remain and why. What despair does not want from you. The country song my father used to sing. Appearances are not the world. Maybe I should stick with what I know. This buzzing.  (“Technically Sublime”)

If anything, the desire is to have her dig a bit deeper into the writing and avoid the reticence which shows itself in her want towards changing the subject as being the subject. Eye and ear are heavily relied upon to pleasant success, but that same eye/ear combo constantly sending back survey reports seemingly done willy nilly results in a rather circular head trip.

Without “without.” Consciousness is what gives us all the trouble. What the man in the top hat assumes. I am without a story but I have these pictures. A possessive of a possessive of a possessive. (“Contour”)

This isn’t a bad ride, but all great rides take you to somewhere and are somewhat of a transformational experience. While nearly every poem contains a deep diving circular line that shines: “Not knowing facts about what you know facts about.” (“Graft”) The missing jolt comes from not having Hunter’s extrapolation upon such a moment, a further rounding out say of the sonic groove underlying the driving thought, would realize heartier, robust poems. So there is some disappoints as the cadence mark is hit high right from the start and never further advances in tempo. The earlier A Musics is a demonstration of such strengths as it’d be a pleasure to witness further development of in combination with her marked prose measure found here.   

What I don’t think I will mention. Owls in the ghetto. Choosing the opposite of fate. If that which is not alive, is. You can have the world, I have this unalive aliveness. The creature in the black lagoon. (“ “Temporary Ravine” ”)

 On a more personal note, Hunter’s bio states she attended the now defunct Poetics program at New College of California. I, too, happened to have studied there. Tom Clark’s collaboration workshop, along with his courses on Keats and Wyatt, Donne, Herrick, Jonson, and Marvell form a core base of my own understanding of how the line may be put to work in a poem. Joanne Kyger’s workshop on the serial poem was a lesson in living with poetry as part of daily life, the charm and the terror of accepting it as one does one’s own breathing. David Meltzer’s dazzling monologues introducing the relevance of everything and anything to the poet’s world with a delightfully textured humor that can’t be beat continue unfolding and connecting dots to this day throughout my reading. Adam Cornford taught Blake exemplary but was on his way to checking out. Gloria Frym’s classes on Whitman and her workshop on the Lyric also fed rich insight into the process of thinking through The Poem. From my own perspective, Hunter arrived late on the scene as my physical presence was fading as much as the program itself was as I completed my thesis work, but her work demonstrates the breadth and clarity of focus upon writing and reading poetry as an all involving process of living itself which the curriculum was initially designed to foster and serve.

It would be marvelous if sometime the impossible came true and matters such as income were made negligible to such a deserving poet’s worry list. I have habitual doubting faith and am also kept busy counting my own bills as well. Such is the life fray The Incompossible sways into with a surge.

Fear of all your papers falling off the bed. What you give up in order to get. This is the same poem as every previous one, but is the only one written a particular way, which you cannot see. (“Rejoinder”)

I run into Hunter regularly around San Francisco attending the widest array of poetry readings imaginable. I would add that she has not been a reader at any of these recent events. I’ve also heard that her bookshelf contains small press ephemera by just about every one of her peers imaginable and these are more often than not works she purchased without having any personal connection to the individual poets or presses. Her commitment to poetry is one of dropping the ego away. It’s a rare pleasure to perceive such selflessness given over to the activity.

The Incompossible   
By Carrie Hunter
Black Radish Books
ISBN: 9780982573136



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