A Matter of Dark Matter
by Kate Hutchinson
50 poems ~ 85 pages
Publisher: Kelsay Books
To Order: Directly through Kelsay Books or by contacting the author via
Facebook or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
I love book titles. I usually process titles easily. However, Kate Hutchinson’s newest collection A Matter of Dark Matter, drove me to Webster’s. Why? The term “matter” may be the most common word we never think about as we say it. Matter is physical. Matter is intangible. The finger that bleeds when I cut it matters to me physically … OUCH!!! But it also matters intangibly because it captures who I really am under duress. (A few unrepeatable words usually follow!!) The distinction between physical substance and spiritual revelation quite often takes me to task. Thus it is that Kate Hutchinson’s unique collection offers an intellectual and emotional smorgasbord of poetry.
I also love book covers. Hutchinson’s visual, created by Taneli Lahtinen, masterfully adds to the mix of wonder suggested by Hutchinson’s title. Life has limitations. Conversely, life is transcendent, the human psyche desires more, pines to reach beyond imposed limits. As human beings, we are like a candle’s flame tearing at the wick. What is left after the flame disappears?
A Matter of Dark Matter is organized into five untitled sections. Each section is impressive in its variety of poetic styles and literary devices. Hutchinson is intellectually sharp as well as emotionally sensitive. A rare combination. I like the way she bridges the gap between the world we experience with the five senses and the impact that same world has on the human spirit.
Let’s explore Hutchinson’s title poem in this regard:
A Matter of Dark Matter
Dark matter is like an overflowing cup,
the present moment resting at the surface,
the great beyond bubbling up into supernovas.
Above the rim, time accelerates into
the mystery of the dark, overwhelming
the five percent that we can see and touch.
What lies out there, above the holy grail of time?
No one knows, though Einstein told us
It was not nothing. A matter of some consequence.
Darkness matters–a thought unsettling
to those of us who live in light. So how
reassuring to know dark matter is not full
of Massive Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs)
but Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS)–
NASA’s little joke spinning around us,
helping us believe no particle wars seem
imminent in space. Still, light years away
float the memories of collided galaxies,
one called–of course–Pandora’s Cluster.
Here, tiny sparks still hurtle out into
the vast darkness, their fate unknown.
For Hutchinson, dark matter is like an overflowing cup. She is aware of the present moment resting at the surface, as well as the great beyond bubbling up into supernovas. The poet embodies both the largeness of space as represented by science, with where we live: in the present moment. Her reference to the holy grail of time, suggests a quest motif. Life for this poet is never static. She is “all in” about life. Life is finite. Life is infinite. In the end all of life matters. Her quest is for the “holy grail” of a meaningful life.
For this reviewer the title poem provides a basic framework for the whole. Through a variety of forms: sonnets, unrhymed quatrains, villanelles, golden shovel poems,* free verse, and poems with indentations dancing all over the page, Hutchinson’s journey is a journey freely shared.
*The last words of each line in a golden shovel poem are words from a line found in another poem or text, used in order.
Childhood memories are important for Hutchinson. In part III, many poems with titles like, “Around the World in Fourth Grade,” “After Ice Skating,” “Lions Park Pool,” “Busse Woods, 1970,” and “The Anointing,” paint compelling scenes of a young girl coming of age. These exquisite poems placed me in the poet’s skin. Light and dark mix and mingle. Mystery and majesty become a single being.
Poet Joanna Klink has written, “In my poems I am trying to find my bearings through a world that at times feels remote and inchoate and struck blank with noise.” Kate Hutchinson feels something similar. The poet needs these poems; she intuitively senses that we need these poems.
With Klink’s insight in mind, part IV features several poems about Hutchinson’s middle-adult years. These gems cast light on losing one’s last parent, musings of a mother who, “After your children are asleep, you open / a window to breathe deep the lilac air … [she wonders] would you choose all this again?” This is tender, contemplative writing. In other poems Hutchinson takes on issues such as depression, agoraphobia, and the aftermath of a nervous breakdown. In “Jettison” she faces the reality that even her children will not want those things which, for her, are treasures. Here is an excerpt:
To approach our waning years is to decide
when something’s usefulness outweighs
its sentiment or pure delight. How will we know
when it’s time to part with the beads and baubles,
to strip down to seashell white, empty shelves,
a clear mind, and simple mat on the floor?
In Kate Hutchinson’s work we encounter a finished poet. Her poetry has touched my life. At the end of her volume, she ties a ribbon around the holy grail of time, by writing a poem entitled, “It All Matters: An Abecedarian of 2020.” Do yourself a favor, don’t miss this poem.