This History That Just Happened by Hannah Craig
To All Places Bound
by Camila Isopo
Look, the dialogue of new death
is broader, forget what you heard on Sunday,
this is new speech
floating across the yard, someone's forearm
braced against the bedroom window,
a tin-lip shaped on milk glass
a forethought in chipped polish
As new and as variable is the speech of Hannah Craig, award-winning poet from Indiana.This History That Just Happened is her debut collection of poems, selected for the New Measure Poetry Prize from Parlor Press by Yusef Komunyakaa.
Craig’s collection takes a closer look at how human history is constantly reshaped through different narratives. These can be oral and/or written, in her case written, but are often telling of intimate experiences that reach others through universal themes. Often, writers and storytellers focus on the emotion found in situations and on personal relationships. While Craig does focus on the emotional attachment to experiences, she does so while exploring ideas of setting or place and how they serve to evoke emotion. She freely describes details of a place or activity with intense focus and reader’s minds live in the scene for that moment.
Regardless of topic, her voice remains unique throughout the collection. She never gives off the impression that she’s directly stealing from other poets’ voices. She’s upfront as she informs readers about realistic subjects. In the moments she chooses to play with words more, the metaphors compile on the clearly seen; the clearly seen onto metaphor. She sprinkles them sparingly throughout her messages.
One of the most memorable poems is "The Little Sleep."
The title itself is attention-grabbing because any reader with a dark sense of humor can figure out right away that the “little” sleep is actually death and if you don’t have a dark sense of humor, she tells you to “think of death” anyway. Her consistent straightforward manner is noticeable from the beginning:
think of death, think of driving
through the game preserve on rain
& brake fluid
between Shock Lake and Bass Pond
gravel & dirt & rich blood
deer strung in oak trees
hunt caps in the orange trees slow-walking
thighs like cold barrels
And readers get a full picture of a country landscape touched by a sense of suspense. The readers know they should be seeing a normal, yet morose, landscape. Nevertheless, there’s always her voice in the back of readers’ heads reminding us the language, each image is one of memento mori, or what she calls “the little sleep.”
Hannah Craig is dark in an unapologetic and caring way as she describes the small things in everyday life. There’s a sense of irony in that she’s a poet of the dark but she doesn’t write like the darkness consumes her or the poems. In other words, she’s not overly concerned with pleasing our ears or eyes. Like many contemporary poets, she’s focused on telling her stories, and these are about reshaped history. Focused more as a speaker on getting her messages across, the poems seem to come out of her own mouth rather than pop out of a page from a book someone holds in their hands.
This History That Just Happened is available now from Parlor Press.