A permanent home and museum for poets and poetry

2017 Dartmouth Poet in Residence Christina Hutchins

Meet Christina Hutchins

Christina Hutchins’s second fulllength poetry collection, Tender the Maker, won the 2015 May Swenson Award. She is also the author of The Stranger Dissolves (2011), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde Prize, and two chapbooks, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air (Robin Becker Prize, 2011) and Collecting Light (1999). Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi Magazine, The Southern Review, and The Women’s Review of Books. She has published essays on philosophies of creativity, which have appeared in volumes by Ashgate, Columbia UP, and SUNY. Formerly a biochemist and Congregational minister, she holds degrees from University of California at Davis, Harvard University, and Graduate Theological Union. She has long taught graduate students philosophy, theological imagination, and poetry in Berkeley and now offers private poetry instruction. Her literary awards include The Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, National Poetry Review’s Annie Finch Prize, two Barbara Deming/Money for Women Awards, the James D. Phelan Award, and fellowships to Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, CA, and to Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia. She lives in Albany, CA, where she served as the first Poet Laureate.

On Being Named the 2017 Dartmouth Poet in Residence

“It’s a surprise and deep gladness to be named the 2017 Dartmouth Poet in Residence. Both the solitude and the public obligations are rare opportunities: living in a place that shows the weathered wear of years, open to the heat and breezes, absorbing views of the White Mountains, and getting to read, in town and among other poets. Robert Frost suggested that artists and poets are those who ‘stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields.’ Frost Place opens an irreplaceable trove of experience for this walker, and the burr that sticks, after meandering through a field, is the feel of night air on the skin, unaware of its effects until it slips into the poem of the next morning.”

Plans for the Residency

“I have two projects.  There is the ordering of a new manuscript, ‘Minor Alchemies,’ to complete on an undisturbed floor.  Then I want to focus on the freedom of letting my own tongue feel foreign to me. With Frost ‘make the discovery that the object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other.’ We don’t need poetry that echoes who we already are. I am excited to differ from myself.”

Two Poems by Christina Hutchins

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Through my mother’s jars fell the light of plums.
At Capistrano the swallows returned. I loved
the bitter scent of linseed, crumbs of pigment,
& while she painted, dragged my child-fingers

lightly along adobe walls. Once I swung
on the high gate of a graveyard. It opened
a carnival of death: crooked stones & violate
grasses, broken fence, sunken shibboleth.

Breath marries the quiet beats of a wing.
A bird evades her oils. Geranium
under the arch, red, red, & ding-a-ling
sway in the wind, glide & rise on the thrum.

Who knew at Auschwitz the grass would be
so very green? The barbs were thickets
of thorns all in a row. One summer day
I stood, adult, in the hygiene chamber.

From the low doorway it darted,
a shadow. It slid into the concrete
wall. It was a small cleft,
her nest, dark swallow, her red eye.

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I had the need of water round my skin.
Of course it was more: more than faucet rush or fist
of rain, I needed myself kicking my might

against a rolled swiftness where the fall enters
its pool below the rock. I swam alone,
opened my eyes to my own pale skin in a whirling

world going dark. Yellow, pink, ripples
of black, the dusking sky rode uneven gathers
pulled by a body’s submerged and quickened thread.

In a river that only moves by shattering itself
and by that process breaks the tyranny of light,
I lay back, and the water held.

I asked, am I this or am I that?
When water flowed from the spigot as I washed
my father’s hands, we broke silver strands:

the done-unto turned doer, and the holder,
the held. How could we have lived all the years
before, so gladly known by each other,

unknowing the other of ourselves? Our time
is run and the knowledge in our hands exchanged.
He discovered the gifted pleasure of the child

I was (and, tactile, remember), and I
learned the pleasure of bearing the towel. (Did he
in that shifting moment recall it?)

We became more. What once we felt
in part is now nearly whole.
I floated.

My back took to the current, my eyes to the sky.
The night river widened. The pulse of creation
slowed enough for me to perceive it.[/tab_item] [/tab]