|Erica Hunt, photo courtesy of Alan Bernheimer|
Luckily for me, I was able to make it to Erica Hunt's reading on Tuesday March 19th, part of the Contemporary Writers Series at Mills College. Attending readings on Tuesdays, given my teaching schedule, is usually out of the question, but chance arranged things so that I was one of the lucky ones in the audience.
Prior to this event, I'd never heard Hunt read and I can't remember the last time she was in the Bay Area. However, her work has been a touchstone for me and her essay "Notes for an Oppositional Poetics," originally appearing in Charles Bernstein's The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy, remains significant and powerful, addressing as it does, claims about language and liberation, form and politics, identity and poetics. Along the way, it asserts:
"Contiguity, as a textual and social practice, provides the occasion to look beyond the customary categories of domestic and international, politics, history, aesthetics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and so on. As a social practice it acknowledges that the relationships among groups who share an interest in changing the antidemocratic character of the social order is not as oblique as their individual rhetoric would represent. As a reading and writing practice, it suggests new syntheses that move out of the sphere of a monoculture of denial; syntheses that would begin to consider the variance between clusters of oppositional writing strategies with respect for what has been achieved by each and a sense of the ground that holds it in place" (205).
It closes this way:
"Certainly writing itself cannot enlarge the body of opposition to the New Wars, it only enhances our capacity to strategically read our condition more critically and creatively in order to interrupt and to join" (212).
Hunt, as Unique Robinson's introduction details, has been busy working running the 21st Century Foundation and so we readers have had few opportunities to read recent work; however, she has recently left the Foundation, completed an MFA in creative non-fiction at Bennington College where she's found herself focusing on sentences; Hunt has been writing away, both poetry and prose. She is a powerful role model for a life fully lived, suggesting too the possibility of turning again to one's own work with renewed vigor. Opening the reading with prose, Hunt read a playful, autobiography entitled "My Life With Cars," to which she brought her customary sense of linguistic snap, hum, and rhythm--"punned and pinned to narrative...funk in the trunk." This piece emerged out of her own family's experience attending the World's Fair in Flushing, and her thinking about Robert Moses's highways, the way they cut across neighborhoods. Hunt treated us to a bunch of other work, including "Piece Logic," "Invisible Hands," and others. Several are included here. Enjoy!
Read Unique Robinson's introduction to Hunt here!
Read Hunt's Poems here!