Review by Nancy Gerber
– It’s a pleasure to dive into Robyn Hunt’s debut poetry collection, The Shape of Caught Water.
In rhythmic, evocative language, these poems chart the rising swells and quiet pools of human relationships. A young girl mourns the break-up of her parents’ marriage as she observes her father falling for another woman. Parents experience the eerie emptiness that descends when a child leaves home. A couple argue on New Year’s Eve, their explosive words echoed by midnight fireworks. A group of women gather for a writers’ retreat, the richness of their friendship reflected in the food they share: “sourdough bread/chocolate broken with the teeth . . . /garlic cloves, Tuscan wine,/spicy Mexican chocolate” (p. 31).
“Observation is key,” says the speaker in “Father’s Day,” a line that reminds us that life is lived most fully by studying the details: the desert moon, an orange slit; the windy etch of leaves; wooden spoons resting on the stove; the inscription in a cookbook from the speaker’s mother: “Good girls clean up after themselves” (p. 36). The question is implicit: who wants to be a good girl?
Some of the most powerful poems are about mothers and daughters. In “A Knife and a Kiss,” the speaker explores the mother’s pain and pleasure in her daughter, a mirror of the mother’s lost youth and also uniquely her own person. In “Nosegay,” the daughter is “the one with violets in her lap,” a blossom in whom the mother both sees herself and a strong young woman with her own mind: “all authority, and I recognize in her/the tiniest scent as when I was daughter/swooning.” In “Inheritance of Water,” the mother imagines herself as a seaworthy boat that holds and protects the family on the perilous voyage, navigating the narrow channels and “clear, biting rock.”
These poems are as luminous as a stream on a moonlit night, as rejuvenating and rewarding as a plunge in a cool pond on a hot summer’s day.
The Shape of Caught Water, by Robyn Hunt
Red Mountain Press
Available from www.redmountainpress.us
Nancy Gerber is a frequent contributor to MER. Her collection of poetry and prose, Fire and Ice, is forthcoming from Arseya this spring.