Following her husband’s massive heart attack, Cynthia Hogue began writing poems based on dreams and memories that he, born during WWII in occupied France, had as a child growing up in a time of vast postwar food shortages. Hogue embarked on a quest to discover if there were more such memories in her extended family in France. When asked, family members told her never-before-shared tales of parents who were POWs, collaborators, Resistance fighters, and one most vulnerable—of a hidden child. Hogue spent years researching the lives of civilians during war, work crystallized in her tenth collection of poetry, instead, it is dark. The personal is alchemized as Hogue weaves history and present day in poems that explore how there, here, an individual voice in the stark language of lyric poetry, speaks a complex truth and casts a laser light on violence, resilience, survival, and—the heart of this collection—love.
How do other people’s memories come to live in our bodies, how do they travel by means of language, from one human body to another, across time and miles, painful miles? I ask this question out of sorrow, yes, but also in wonder, upon reading Cynthia Hogue’s beautiful, transformative instead, it is dark, a book not of tales or dreams or historical accounts but of memories that survive us, that have already survived us, as they’ve entered the lyric. Open this book on almost any page and you will see not just World War II history, or its aftermath, but also what such histories do to our minds. You will hear not just the hum of time, but its stranger mysteries. Yes, there is a child forgotten upstairs in the burning building, yes, there is a dream of an underground town, yes, there is a man who survives a heart attack in the twenty-first century and right there in the emergency room asks his wife, the poet, to write down his dreams of what happened. In this world of tragedy, it is tenderness that gives us a chance, it is a whisper that surprises and awakes. Which is to say: Cynthia Hogue has written a beautiful spell of a book, one that investigates the real, yes, but also opens the door into the mysterium of time.
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa and Deaf Republic
instead, it is dark opens with voices that bear witness to traumas suffered in occupied France during World War II. In poems utterly specific yet free of the constrictions of monologue, Hogue pierces to the bone of experience. Her lyric mastery, coupled with deep empathy and insight, transforms violence into song, compelling and fundamental. Her forms and cadences, including elliptical leaps and silences, alter in response to the pressures of intense feeling. The range of these poems reminds us that war’s consequences don’t end with peace treaties, and that the catastrophe of violence alive in our time includes the silencing and degradation of the powerless. Dark indeed––at times ferocious––yet a radiance emanates from these poems that I find unforgettable. This is an extraordinary and important book.
––Joan Larkin, author of My Body: New and Selected Poems