Voice to Voice in the Dark is available for ordering from Broadstone Books.
In 1918 Van Wycks Brooks suggested that Americans were searching for what he termed “a usable past.” We are now, a century later, searching more, it seems, for “a usable present.” In the 1860 Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman sang “The Song of the Open Road.” Louis Simpson, in his 1963 collection At the End of the Open Road, suggested that Whitman’s “Open Road” ends in “the used-car lot.” And today? the junkyard? www.carmax.com?
Knowing where it may still be possible to go is partly a matter of knowing where we are, and knowing where we are is partly a matter of knowing where we’ve been.
Contemporary media makes as if present multiple pasts and multiple iterations of the past—a rich array of costumes and roles with every day (and even the everyday) a masquerade ball. But this array can also obscure our relationship to time and erode our awareness of the contingencies that in part shape us, in part separate us from each other, and in part make it possible to speak to each other across the gaps between us. As such, the title of the collection could have been Voice to Voice Across the Dark.
Larry Levis concluded his poem “Whitman:” with a devastating challenge spoken in the voice of that indispensable writer—“To find me now will cost you everything”—and Tim Hunt has accepted the call. 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. As Hunt writes when he invokes Walt Whitman: “Time, that dark weight, avails not, / even though Time is, and you are then, / and this is now, and you cannot hear me speaking as we listen to the sunset light.” 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 and Ajanta’s Ledge
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. We’re keyed in to the feeling of the facts as we’re reminded of all that’s lost – this is a book about the lost 20th century – but the value of these poems is not primarily in their relationship with loss, or nostalgia, but in their generous restoration of our ability to know and remember. This is also a book that teaches us to be alive in the 21st century. In the essential poem “The Boy, Discovering Leadbelly, Hears Things He Doesn’t Understand,” coming of age means understanding not just what you don’t understand, but how you know anything at all: “But even more what matters is the voice.” 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 & The Accounts
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