Sunday, April 13, 2008

RIFT. Barbara Helfgott Hyett

RIFT. Barbara Helfgott Hyett (The University of Arkansas Press Fayetteville 2008) $16.

W. C. Fields once said, “ Marriage is a great institution but I’m not ready to be institutionalized.” One of the main themes in “Rift,” an accomplished poetry collection by Barbara Helfgott Hyett is the breakup of her long marriage. And indeed, after I have personally witnessed the many long honeymoons, and their bitter ends, I think Fields may just have a point. Hyett often uses striking imagery to paint her pain in bold strokes, and to chronicle her despair.

In the poem “Vacation” her husband’s gaping emotional void and monumental neediness mark what is inevitably down the road:

"You don’t worship me," he says,
eyes on the marsh, arms stretched
on the table before him. "I love you,"
she answers behind him, her palm brushing
his hair. "I want to be adored," he says.
She kisses the top of his head lightly.
I love you, and now she is stroking
his shoulder, This very shoulder. This hair.
It is late afternoon. The beach still clings
to her thighs.

And in “Considering Killing Him Instead” a woman scorned has been revealed with full sound and fury:

Considering Killing Him Instead

Something simple: a hammer.
One whack. A kitchen knife,
serrated. A kitchen match,
kerosene from the orange can
in the garage. The garden hose.
The garden itself. Those tubers
could do it if she trained them.
The fence post if she could tear it
from its mooring. A sidewalk
square, in pieces—too complex.
Then teeth that grind. Hands—
nothing to mediate that blow.

There are many other subjects that Hyett tackles with equal passion and skill. Richard Hoffman, author of "Half the House" and "Gold Star Road" writes of Hyett's work:

" Barbara Helfgott Hyett's "Rift" is a book born of acute psychic necessity and there is not a trifle or bauble in it... Faced with the annihilation of the life she has known, Helfgott Hyett employs her imagination, her learning, and her poetic virtuosity to search among biblical and mythic narratives, artic expeditions, memories, meteor showers, classical and romantic art, and history for a way forward. This book, is that way, a profund gift to all of us. The title sequence is itself a major work, a rich, polyvocal, unflinching vision of the world we live in now."

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./April 2008

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