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This new poetry collection from Tim Hunt is a classic American road trip through myth and memory, steeped in Beats and Blues, reaching out in the darkness.
In the tradition of vagabond poets Walt Whitman, Vachel Lindsay, and Jack Kerouac (all of whom appear here), infused with the Beat spirit of John Clellon Holmes and the smoky blues of Billie Holiday (also present), this new poetry collection from Tim Hunt is a classic literary road trip across America, both the America of myth and memory, and the America of its perilous present. The paired words then and now serve as a leitmotif, recurring throughout these poems, which serve up memories (variously the author’s own California youth in the middle section, and those of World War II veterans whose poignant recollections anchor the final section). But memory here is no mere exercise in nostalgia, but rather a map of how we got here, and in knowing this, just maybe a signpost forward. In the penultimate poem “Hush now, don’t explain,” a tribute to Holmes and Holiday, Hunt writes of time as “a layering of moments, / a remembering of remembering,” and of the lessons that time affords, “hearing now the suffering you didn’t understand then, / because now you, too, have left behind / that hopeful bravery of youth, that faith there is a script….” Abandoning the script requires a new faith, that we might reach one another if we launch our voices across the darkness, finding (in the closing poem) “some sanctuary of words as if Then / is still Now for always and ever, / even as they recede from each other / like a boat drifting off into a lake / … and how, in this / story, a farther shore / welcomes home the drifting boat.”
In Tim Hunt’s VOICE TO VOICE IN THE DARK, the human voice is a necessary condition for real understanding. Facts alone aren’t enough to know life’s rituals and milestones. Instead, a memory of the facts, a melodic mulling-over, “a remembering of remembering” offers an opportunity to see what lies beyond them. I love how this luminous book sees a person – any person, not just a poet, or a singer, or a revolutionary – as a voice among voices – and by doing so, enables us to hear America again. —Katie Peterson, author of A Piece of Good News
Tim Hunt’s latest collection reads like a raucous and dazzling road-trip that switchbacks across the America of the last half of the 20th century, and the first two decades of the 21st. By turns bildungsroman, elegy, and chronicle of the post-War / Vietnam period and beyond, this poet’s kaleidoscopic “America of the mind” keeps extraordinary fidelity to the transfiguring power of the moment—someone notching an ashtray “like the handle of a gunslinger’s gun,” “a tear of rust like leached mascara / staining a faded fender;” these moments he frames and follows with cinematic dexterity until we find ourselves transported into distant reaches, of lost stories, of era-defining conflicts, of our lives in history, of something like the sublime.—Daniel Tobin, author of Blood Labors and On Serious Earth
Tim Hunt’s gritty, meditative poems confront reality in a voice aware of the difference between “the America of the mind,” in which a pair of jeans or a chair can be “antiqued” to seem old, and what can be seen, sometimes, from the window of a car if you happen to travel, back and forth, on that road enough years to notice a barn and its collapsing, and the way that barn’s final “uselessness” frees it from being any one thing. Inspired by Whitman, Jeffers, the beat poet John Clellon Holmes, and Louis Simpson, Hunt’s poems record his seeing and hearing and feeling of the world. Aware of the unknowable universe (the moon’s “backpack” of darkness), Hunt finds meaning in art. As he writes in the poem, “The Boy, Discovering Leadbelly, Hears Things He Doesn’t Understand (Sebastopol, CA, 1965),” the songs get us to the impossible “there”: “And yes the songs matter, too, the thumb walking time / as if time were both now and then, and you might walk with it / in that now it lines out that is neither now or then.” —LaWanda Walters, author of Light Is the Odalisque
From the darkness, and in broad daylight for that matter, the voices emerging from these full-bodied, vivacious poems demand an awareness for the best of humanity, despite profound cultural shifts and tragic failures. Throughout this superb collection, Hunt’s poems bait us with a fly fisherman’s canny and grace, and they leave us wanting to live life more completely as we ponder America’s altering shores. —Sascha Feinstein, author of Misterioso & Ajanta’s Ledge
A fourth generation Californian, Tim Hunt was born in Calistoga and raised primarily in Sebastopol, small towns north of San Francisco that were, in the 1950s and 1960s, still agricultural, working-class communities. As a boy, he identified strongly with the Lake County region of his father's family, an area where quicksilver mining had once been profitable. Here one of his aunts taught him "I Can Tell You Are a Logger 'Cause You Stir Your Coffee with Your Thumb," while a rockabilly cousin offered "Heartbreak Hotel." Before heading east to school, he also discovered such wonders as "Section 43" by Country Joe & the Fish, and in his teen years dreamed of playing guitar like Carl Perkins and being able to sing like Fred Neil. He has at times claimed he was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist in the band Derridean Debris, which to the best of his knowledge never existed, and was for a time in a band that may have been called Moby-Dick & the See-Men (among its possible spellings).Educated at Cornell University, he has taught American literature at several schools, including Washington State University and Deep Springs College. His last gig was Illinois State University, where he was University Professor of Engish. He and his wife Susan, a retired respiratory therapist, have two children: John, a visual artist, and Jessica, a composer.