I was born in Denver, Colorado, on the westernmost edge of the Great Plains, and I’ve always responded to and aspired to a quality in poetry that I can only call “clarity.” Not that I’m interested in clarity at the expense of honest complexity; after all, light is not always benign: it blinds as often as it reveals, as anyone who’s grown up in my part of the world would know. That duality fascinates me and continues to shape my work. I’ve published 16 collections of poems over the years, most recently The Satire Lounge, The Earth-Boat, Marked Men, and Thread of the Real. My new book, The World As Is: New & Selected Poems, 1972-2015, will be released by NYQ Books on October 1, 2016. In September 2014 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper appointed me to a four-year term as Colorado Poet Laureate, and I teach for the University of Denver’s University College, where I direct a master's level program in Arts & Culture that includes a Creative Writing concentration. I have two children, Susannah and Brian, and live with my wife, Iyengar yoga instructor Melody Madonna, in the foothills southwest of Denver.
Editor's Note: In his submission email to me, Joe wrote: "Since my birthday's in June, I thought I'd better send you a couple of June poems. "June Morning" is really the first poem I wrote in which I recognized my own voice from beginning to end; "Robert Emmitt" is an elegy for my old friend who was felled by a stroke and, as the poem says, died on my birthday. The poems have always seemed to me to be in some kind of dialogue with each other. Both will appear in The World As Is: New & Selected Poems 1972-2015, coming October 1 this year from New York Quarterly (NYQ) Books.
a breeze thumbs through
loose papers on the desk.
Shadows of poplars swim slowly on the carpet.
Small lakes on the eastern plains
drink the sky’s blue
and reflections of eagles hunt in the depths.
Here, the dreaming grass
flutters in its sleep.
The steady blackbird chatter spouts
out of the flowers.
On days like this
some men long for a God to praise; others
doze in the nameless mountains of the body.
-from The Undersides of Leaves
“He got hisself all to hisself.”
—The last sentence of Emmitt’s The Legend of Ogden Jenks
They’d shut the blinds against the bright
April day, alive with unseasonable snow,
but the air in your room still glittered,
each second’s crystal pattern unrepeatable—
a storm your face was the calm center of.
I gossiped and smiled, though your dry mouth
gaped under stroke-emptied eyes; I knew
it was reflex, yet felt somehow you’d fallen
down a well and hung there treading water,
too wise to lavish breath on speech.
Truth is, of course, you couldn’t speak,
or even signal you’d like to speak.
I invented the well just now—and it stands
for my own trapped feeling, not yours.
I hated your being so shattered, so damned
reducible! And so drew a meaning image
from your stare, as if I’d read it there.
What did you want? Working your tongue
as if tasting the memory of gruel, or
the first time a burst vessel felled you
face down in the dirt. I remember touching
your shaved head, warm as lichened stone,
your cheeks baby-bottom smooth.
is, what I wished for you then was death,
easeful death. But you waited—lingered
into June, and died on my birthday. I told
the news at my party, and Joe said, “He hoped
we’d all talk about him.” And we did. We do.
Old friend, both of our wishes came true.
-from House of Mirrors
©2016 Joseph Hutchison