The Incompossible by Carrie Hunter
(Black Radish Books, 2011)
I have to say something about this book. Something needs to be said; The Incompossible cannot be passed over, not by me anyway . . .
The funny thing is Carrie Hunter was my bank teller for a couple of years. I was a restaurant manager; both of us poets in real life, but earning our keep in the city however we could. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned more about her. She attended the Poetics program at New College of California and wrote her thesis on H.D. This is no small feat. Her nametag at the bank should’ve indicated such, a banner or placard, something to mention that she is beyond the everyday people. And that’s just it—that’s the treasure hunt, as poets, looking for truth and beauty in the beauty that is truth. That’s where this book takes you—through layer upon layer of truth in the uncommon commons.
The Incompossible explores, in no simple manner, the fragments of thought, of things overheard that we push to the backs of our brains, “What I don’t think I will mention,” (69) the things we forget or are afraid to say out loud, “The fear of ending as your mother ended.” (48) But it is with no fear, none at all, that Hunter grabs hold of these missives and brings them to light with clarity and beauty, weaving them with everyday goings-on, as if little secrets are being revealed. Little glimpses of city life, everyone else’s insecurities (and maybe her own) lying there on the pavement, being spoken about across the counter. But this book is way more than snippets of the unfoldings of thought and sometimes action. Hunter’s intellectual and theoretical approach (remember H.D.) is interspersed within each poem. “We have definitions about things that don’t exist. This formula is not quite right.” (38) But the formula of this book is oh so right. Hunter’s assertion of ideas as fact, and vice versa, is the certitude that grounds this work as something beyond just entries on the page. These are entries into a music of the layering of the consciousness. The secret conversations you overhear as a child hiding down the hall; your misinterpretation of them, where you go in your imagination. As she mentions, “Trying to overhear conversations in a language I don’t understand.” (58) Hunter owns these moments and places them on the table to be examined as well as embraced. “That which is unwitnessable” (64) she sees (or just knows) and tells it forthright and more magnificent than the truth it thought it was.
Everything laid out in a row. Why this moves
but that does not. Meeting someone with a tape worm,
or a monster in a basket.” (68)
Of course! This is where poetry lives and rings true. Poetry is the “monster in [the] basket” and Hunter proudly adorns herself with such/as such. She hears it (in whatever language that may be) and displays in these seemingly juxtapositional intimacies. A romance for sure: the ear with language, the thought with tongue, and all else caught in the frequencies between—
Having taken that extra step. I find a seat. There is something
to be said for the unpopular. Choosing my words carefully.
A practice is not for real. Sometimes you should just walk
away from the precipice. Where we place ourselves is where
we place ourselves. Portions of what is said. Intelligibility’s
conceit. The dirty latency embedded in the tongue. A verb
for language. Those who have quit traveling and decide to just
stay. How the line builds up, dissipates, and builds up again. (97)
Sunnylyn Thibodeaux is the author of Palm to Pine (Bootstrap Press, 2011). She lives in San Francisco with her husband, poet Micah Ballard. Together they print books under Auguste Press and Lew Gallery Editions and have a baby daughter, Lorca Manale.