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Erica Hunt

New York, NY

Born 1955, New York, NY

Years ago, I was asked whether my poems are about "real things." It was a challenging question then, and made even more challenging by current events, which have introduced to us in intimate terms degrees of violence, real everyday for three-fourths of the world. That question about poetry and the "real" jostles the horizon for poetry: how does aggressively speculative writing, strategies of intensification, opacity/excavation/illumination have value beyond their practice, to influence the world in which we live?

Poetry makes a path out of ordinary language, contesting the ordinary claims about the "real." Ordinary language is frequently instrumental, instructional, direct, prescriptive and remunerative, the language of enlistment and persuasion. But it is in the non-instrumental language of poetry in which the lapidary, the spare, mysterious, disjunctive, molecular, muscular, anagrammatic (and so on) provide previously undetected links to thinking and acting on alternatives and to building a just society. (Swords into plowshares, plowshares into ribbons, ribbons into irons, irons into kites.

As is true with many poets, I am drawn to language for its music, for languages capacity to limn thought, its connection to experience, its power to still and magnify the world while one writes/reads the world/book. But equally, I have been interested in techniques that purposely unsettle the crisp ride and appropriate shade of register and vocabulary. I like to read or write to topple the balance between controlled allusion and opacity. And so I have been drawn to the disjunctions of surrealism, Oulippians, improvisers and scat cats as aesthetic methods to seek new and unsuspected connection. This makes it sound like too tranquil an operation: I write poems that teeter on the verge of legibility, blur private and public, set boundaries anew and implicate us as practitioners of this moment and the next.

SELECTED WORKS

2002 Piece Logic, chapbook. Durham, NC: Carolina Wren Press.

2002 "Reflections on the Black Avant Garde," Tripwire, 5, Spring.

1998 "City," "First Words," "After Baudelaire Muse for Hire," and others, in Moving Borders: Three Decades of Innovative Writing by Women, ed. Mary Margaret Sloan. Greenfield, MA: Talisman House Publishers.

1997 "Canonical Variations," American Book Review, 18.6, Sept.-Oct.

1997 "Coronary Artist," "Risk Signature," and "Madame Narcissist," in BOMB, 58 Winter.

1996 Arcade, poetry collection and collaboration with artist Alison Saar. Berkeley, CA: Kelsey St. Press.

1996 "First Words," and "A Coronary Artist," Iowa Poetry Review.

1993 Local History, poetry collection. New York: Roof Books.

SELECTED AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS

1993 The Fund for Poetry

1992 Blue Mountain Center Fellow

1989 Djerassi Resident Artists Program Fellow

Year Awarded 2001
Category Poetry
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