2019 Editor’s Choice
“This is a splendid book. But when this poet says ‘I look / at the ocean and only see ocean,’ do not believe her. Know instead how unnerving and strange and revealing her poems are about human time and love and loss through brilliant observations about the natural world (think: whales, otters, seabirds of oil slick or not, woodpeckers, crows, nuthatches, even extinct creatures like the heart-stopping long lost dodo.) Enormous empathy lives in this book, plus time-travel’s feel for past centuries where sailors in tall ships suffered (or were gifted) with ‘calenture,’ an affliction bringing on visions of the sea as a welcoming, irresistible ‘meadow silent/but for the ticking of insects.’ Where we can walk too—and fall into deep imagining as startlingly real as ‘submerged/grasses swaying like the drowned/hair of a doll.’ Did I say these poems are strange? Yes. As genuine beauty is.”
“Swales direct and slow the flow of rainwater, and this collection directs the reader’s attention to the ways that the natural world has indelibly shaped our human consciousness and, in turn, the ways we have attempted to trap and tame the natural. In these poems, manatees turn to mermaids through sailors’ lore, priests weather Orinoco rainforests in the hopes of colonizing its inhabitants, and foals’ legs are taped to facilitate their breaking. ‘The animals we love most / we put in cages,’ Hutchcraft writes, and yet everywhere the natural finally evades our capture. Hutchcraft examines the delicate balance between rapture and ravishment, in poems as ambitious as they are beautiful.”
“I feel both shaken and repaired by the alertness of Allison Hutchcraft’s poems. The announcement ‘When I swale, I cannot/tell border from border’ describes her art and where it carries us. Swale takes on the desire of the mind to land and activates new imaginative pathways to disorient the mind from its disorders. Her poems— beautiful and riveting—are excavations, topographies, and tectonic shifts all at once.”
Allison Hutchcraft grew up in California and received her MFA from Purdue University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, The Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and The Southern Review, among other journals. A former resident at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast, she has been awarded a fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council and scholarships from the Key West Literary Seminars, the Tin House Writers Workshop, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.