02 January 2012

Hunger All Inside

Hunger All Inside
by Marie Gauthier
Finishing Line Press, 24 pages, 2009, $14

Reviewed by Susan Jo Russell

Sometimes I long for plain first lines, the ones that tell me exactly where I am and exactly what is happening.  Sometimes I tire of making my way through metaphor, fragment, or obscure juxtaposition and long for something like this:

He squats, his boy haunches
leaning against wrought
iron with one hand
through the gap as he flings
pinecones into the river.

Are you not pulled in?  What lovely end words: haunches, wrought, flings.  The scene is drawn so sharply—we see it—the boy, the railing, the river.  It’s a lovely scene out of childhood—what could be more innocent?  Yet wrought and flings, hanging at the ends of lines, already signal something deeper.

Many of the poems in Marie Gauthier’s deftly crafted chapbook, like “Gravity” from which the lines above are taken, focus on the complicated course of motherhood—the wonder and the fear.  In “The Second Miracle,” returning to her son in the bathtub after “a second away” to get a fresh towel, she imagines:

his small head dashed against the porcelain,
his body a broken toy floating in pink-tinged froth.

Everywhere there are depths and precipices—yet the mother knows her boy must charge into the world:

. . . we grab tufts of hair, sticky hands,
cotton shirts by the score—we yank him back,
over and over, as irresistibly he goes,
over and over, to that verge.

Ms. Gauthier’s language is precise, but layered, like those first lines with which I started this review.  She is grounded in the outdoors and the seasons, the leaves, the trees, but the different perceptions of adult and child of the commonplace bring a depth to the entangled emotions:

Out, out, he cries each morning,
          so we bundle up, and he barrels
through phalanxes of leaves—

dun-colored, breath-thin,
          they crumple beneath his feet
like letters from the dead,

unearthed too late, or too soon
          for his reading . . .

Ms. Gauthier’s biography reveals that she worked at the Jeffrey Amherst Bookstore in Amherst, MA for many years before it, like so many independent bookstores, went out of business.  I was in that bookstore often during those years and do remember her from her picture on the back of the chapbook, but never knew she is a poet.  Through some internet sleuthing, I found that Ms. Gauthier is now the Director of Sales and Marketing at Tupelo Press; a blog by her and some of her poetry can be found at: http://mariegauthier.wordpress.com/