Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Talking Mean by Paul Hunter

Set out along that dark porch they would talk
about which was meaner a rooster
dairy bull coon hound or rattlesnake
one would say leastways a rooster will warn you
the way he crows and struts likewise a rattler
if he don’t get stepped on sound asleep
unlike your copperhead or cottonmouth

another allowed he’d worked around one bull
ol Twitch that once he got his growth
and a taste of what he was after
was mean clear through sundown to sunup
laying to get you don’t come anywhere close
took three bullets to drop him had to grind
every bit for hamburger talk about tough

though we had that one sneaky rooster
would jump you out of the blue
if he’d been the size of ol Twitch
woulda been nothing left alive around for miles

well what about coon hounds that one Lacey has
he calls the Prince of Darkness
had to keep him chained up once he treed his first
else he’d hunt every night to exhaustion
bite anything walked past even Lacey himself

finally the storekeep who needed his rest
chimed in to try and end it said
when old Hennemeyer got word he had
the cancer tried to drink himself to death
then woke up still alive he went to check
himself in the mirror what do you think
he saw there staring back
meaner than him by a long shot

Editor: T Clear

I know few poets who can deliver a poem with more eloquence and presence than Paul Hunter. When he takes out his "come to Jesus" voice, there's nothing to be done but to submit to listening.

Paul has the kind of voice where I often don't know where the conversation ends and the poem begins. When I met with him recently, we were standing in his study, and he showed me a Farm Journal periodical where he was a featured poet, and all of a sudden I realized he was several lines into his poem, standing close enough so that I could hear the poem itself breathe. And we were no longer in his built-in-1912 Seattle house -- surrounded by stacks of books, guitars and mandolins, windows looking west to the Olympic Mountains -- but on a hillside in rural Indiana, years earlier in the 20th century, surrounded by cows.

In this short video, he's standing out on the hillside of his back yard, on a March afternoon that began with snow and ended in brilliant sunshine and this poem — Paul Hunter indeed "talking mean" —

Paul Hunter has lent a hand where it was needed—as teacher, performer, grassroots arts activist, worker on the land, and shade-tree mechanic. For the past 18 years he has published fine letterpress poetry under the imprint of Wood Works, currently including 26 books and over 60 broadsides.

His poems have appeared in Alaska Fisherman's Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, Bloomsbury Review, Iowa Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Raven Chronicles, The Small Farmer's Journal, The Southern Review and Spoon River Poetry Review, as well as in six full-length books and three chapbooks His first collection of farming poems, Breaking Ground, 2004, from Silverfish Review Press, was reviewed in The New York Times and received the 2004 Washington State Book Award. A second volume of farming poems, Ripening, was published in 2007, and a third companion volume, Come the Harvest, appeared in 2008. He has been a featured poem on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. His recent prose book, One Seed To Another: The New Small Farming, was published by the Small Farmer's Journal in 2010. A fourth collection of faring poems, Stubble Field, is due out from Silverfish Review Press, in May 2012.


This week's editor T. Clear is a Seattle poet whose work has appeared in many journals, including Poetry Northwest, Atlanta Review, Seattle Review, Slipstream, Calyx and Hobble Creek Review. Her poem "Holy Goose" is forthcoming in the new anthology Pacific Poetry Project, and she is a founding board member of Floating Bridge Press. She works overseeing production and shipping for a Seattle glass artist, and can be found online here.

Please do check the right-hand sidebar for other Tuesday Poems selected by our line-up of 30 poets from NZ, Australia, US and UK!


Helen Lowe said...

Great choice, T: love it! Especially the 'voice' and the way the poem builds to that final, perfect in terms of the rest of the poem, denouement.

Kathleen Jones said...

I really liked the way the poem was laid out on the page, without punctuation, and the way that differed from the pauses in the voice when it was read. There's a kind of tension there between the two. Took me a couple of minutes to get to grips with the US intonation for the rhythm. Really interesting T. Thanks for posting. Like Helen, I loved the final lines.

Helen Mckinlay said...

I am enjoying this poem a lot. sometimes I am sitting in a rocking chair on Paul's verandah listening to the flow of his words.

Rathnashikamani said...

Beautiful poem.

Patrice said...

I think I am in love!

I've listened to many poets who are rather self conscious when reading or reciting their verse. Paul Hunter is the perfect read. So natural.