Laura Jean Schneiderljschneider@ptleader.com
On a blustery morning last week, poet Kathryn Hunt glanced out her window at leaves whipping past, and commented on how the strength of the …
On a blustery morning last week, poet Kathryn Hunt glanced out her window at leaves whipping past, and commented on how the strength of the elements informed her latest book, “Seed Wheel.”
“You don’t need to go out to the country to touch the elements,” Hunt said, although she gathered much of the material for this collection of poems from her own experiences on the land.
While cozily settled in her Port Townsend home, one got the sense that Hunt would have been just as comfortable encompassed by the force of the day’s weather. Even the book’s title, which refers to the cyclic nature of life, seasons, and personal evolutions, has a sense of real movement. The world turns, literally, and scatters its own seeds. The wind casts them to the earth, as was happening in real time.
To Hunt’s great delight, she shared that a “seed wheel” is also a practical implement wheeled along a garden or field row to plant seed.
Seeds are a repeating motif in the collection, just arrived at Hunt’s house in boxes from Lost Horse Press last Thursday. The volume, which is divided into three segments, “Road Trip,” “The Country I Come From,” and “Migrations,” has the feel of unspoken seasons, the fourth yet unwritten. Readers follow a personal journey, a survey of belonging, and present-day perspective in a cadence that at times lulls, and at times haunts.
Hunt’s metaphors are grounded in the physical reality of being. Throughout the 86-page volume, readers can expect to slow down and let her striking imagery simmer.
A “moan of light,” pierces one poem, and the “dust of voices” sifts through another. A river has a “long fluent back,” and winter brings a “silver-plated pond.”
In “Do You Consider Yourself a Nature Poet?”, the narrator wakes at night to see “stars scattering / salt through the indigo sky.”
It’s not just in describing nature that Hunt is evocative; she isn’t afraid to delve into the dark side of humanity. While she grew up in Seattle, she spent summers on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in eastern Wyoming, a landscape that could be generously defined as hardscrabble and desolate.
There, she said, life was still pre-industrial. They drank water from a cistern, and ate dinner by the light of kerosene lamps, not for the romance, but because there was no line power.
“I started writing poems in middle school,” she said, admitting that those early days on the ranch informed her work in a specific way. The overheard conversations and whispers of adults, which she described as a “patchwork of rumors and silences,” piqued her curiosity.
Perhaps it’s these same silences that shaped her own poetic process, too.
“I sit down and wait,” she said. “Poetry comes out of the silence.”
And in march images so persistent and striking they’re hard to shake. In the second section of the book, “The Country I Come From,” named after a Bob Dylan song, she muses on her ancestors – or the pioneering archetypes she has imagined them to be.
Reading “Vern Hunt,” the subject admits, “It’s true / I once near beat to death a horse / that failed me in a ditch.” A reader may be quick to judge the voice until the following line, “Life twists you like a rope,” injects a discomfiting dose of humanity into Vern.
This section of “Seed Wheel” has the cadence of footsteps, each persona poem followed by an italicized voice that Hunt said was that of the land itself.
“That land, which I loved,” she said, referring to the Lakota prairies her ancestors homesteaded, “somehow the land itself seemed to want to speak.”
The final section feels like autumn, exuding memory, deaths of dear ones, and reflections on a life. It feels like the almost, but not quite, closure of the cycle that “Seed Wheel” represents. Seeking solace in “My First Garden,” the poet writes, “My mother / was dying and I put / seeds in the ground / to save myself.” Later, in “Where are Your Gloves, Anna?”, she writes of a favorite Russian poet, how her work has been a consumption for Hunt. “Your poems are seeds in the teeth / of the wind.”
“Poems tell me what they’re going to be,” Hunt said. She does not consider being a poet a career choice, but rather, a vocation. Like Leonard Cohen said, she added, “I labor in the tower of song.” She didn’t start publishing poetry until she was in her 40s. “Seed Wheel” is her second volume of poetry, and all of the poems have been written within the six-year or so span between her books.
Lovers of nature and poetry can hear Hunt read from her work at an outdoor informal reading event that will start around 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Pope Marine Plaza. She will joined by a trio of Peninsula poets: Gary Copeland Lilley, Lauren Davis, and Matthew Nienow. Copies of Hunt’s book will be available.
Readers can also connect with Hunt by participating in her upcoming online poetry workshop co-taught with Spencer Reese. The class runs Oct. 9 and
Oct. 10. Details on the class at Imprint Bookstore on Water Street, or through an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on Hunt, visit her website at kathrynhunt.net.