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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Poet Christine Hume

Shot by Christine Hume
Counterpath Press, 2010

I've been reading this amazing new book by poet Christine Hume. Doubly interesting to me as it uses as subject matter the experience of mothering.
There are tons of reviews online about the book, so I just wanted to point out one aspect that I find most interesting. The beginning section of the book, about 12 pages, opens with a series of questions and answers, presumably between a mother figure and her fetus. The book revolves around images of darkness, night, moons, and internal/ external dichotomies. In this opening sequence, the questions are straightforward, generic while the answers seem to emanate from an abstract, surreal plane. The mother/ baby call and response is complicated by this interesting twist on the voice and tone of the answer. The answers play with the idea of the other, separate but also part of, as well as the other who is listening but at the same time made in translation. The answers come from within, but are they truly other than the mother/ Language begins to mimic biology. Hume attempts to give voice to the singular experience of the fetus to know the mother from the inside, to know the mother's voice and language internally, an experience lost to us in memory but still somewhere in the nexus of our brains.

What is interesting to me outside of this poem called "Incubatory" in this text is an earlier published version of this poem which appeared in Not For Mothers Only (Fence Books), an amazing collection of poems on mothering. In the collection, Hume titles this poem "Hatch" and changes the order of some of the questions as well as the answers. The poems feel the same but they have slight differences. Some words are added while others are excised. The biggest difference is that the opening question is changed. "Incubatory" opens with the question: "Are you comfortable?" which is always an enigmatic way to begin a book. I think it's interesting to see how poets rearrange and continue to edit their work. I wonder what decisions prompted Hume to make these changes, further readings by other trusted friends and poets or maybe her own sitting with the text. My favorite exchange is the question: "Can you hear the sound of my voice?" And the texts have two different responses, with the poem from the book Shot elaborating more on the image of the trap "I place ears like traps on the amniotic shores", is added in "Incubatory", the fetus lays traps and seems to be hunting what the mother gives in sounds.

Christine Hume at Counterpath Press

Also by Hume, if you can find it, is this beautiful book made by Ugly Duckling. This book comes with a CD and explores that first sense developed in utero: hearing. Ugly Duckling makes such exquisite books.

I also just got Karen Weiser's To Light Out, another book examining the crazy situation of inhabiting and making another human being in your body. I adore the cover art on this book. Check it out:

Issa is now fully mobile and is making her way under the computer as I type this in an attempt to pull the plug.

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