by Matthew Pincus
Streaming, by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, is concerned with the interconnectedness of historical moments that are enmeshed with the personal and global spiritual consciousness of the present world. The speaker says in the title poem, “Impressions strummed today / incite future impulsion, / create past prophecy” (6). Global warming, the changing climate, September 11, street children in Medellin, Colombia, the rights of indigenous, the Dust Bowl are all issues in the forum of the text. Historical or current manmade problems are evoked: “Along an echo-wrinkle in existence / your presence permeates swaying” (6). That is, the many folds or moments of experience echo in the spirit, or emotions of others, and permeate the many swaying moods of society, culture, and politics.
The collection is tightly structured, starting with an elegy to her mother, and having each successive section dedicated to family – wavering between past, present, present and past. In an interview with Jan Beatty Hedge Coke says, “I am a person who often thinks in music before words materialize.” Hedge Coke’s rhythm in Streaming is apparent with lines like, “Summer rain in reggae balm / below heat, here in / banana cherry slide—just right” (22). The playful opening from “Summer Fruit” morphs into a more philosophical tone in its conclusion with, “Light streaming in all directions / fanning rays as heat spread, / sunshine through sweltering shade, / shadow dark embracing” (23). The image reminds one of Borges’s “The Aleph,” where center is not an origin but a sphere, almost like Earth’s ecosystem in a season Hedge Coke’s poem is evocative of.
Hedge Coke works with lyric, verse, and prose poetry along with short and long poems. “Campos” is only half a page, but evokes deep feelings about the disconnection Americans, and Westerners have with the food they eat, and those that pick their fruits, vegetables, and raise livestock. This is reminiscent of the Los Angeles Times Investigative piece last fall on Mexican “Superfarms” supplying produce to American grocery stores. The last stanza is both searing and poignant: “reverent to tastes, savory, / clutched, cradled, caressed / for someone else’s table” (44).
“Burn” is the longest and also one of the more powerful pieces in the collection. It details the multiple Marfa fires in Texas in 2011. She uses the experience, material, now historical event as seeing fire’s great strength, and destruction. The latter is shown with the lines, “Chihuahuan and Sonoran, now both carry largest wildfires in colonial / history, both heated harder, spreading / further than pictured / in recent times. Everything from Tucson through Texas a rage” (115). This could translate to the land, but also the political values of two conservative states.
Again though, as “Burn” evolves, it comes back to one’s experience, connection with other individuals as well as the land around them. The speaker says, “Yet, fire is the birth of life, the spark there and we / were with spark, ignited. / My life emptied into the banks below mounds they now lay within” (132). Streaming is a strong collection, and Hedge Coke is a poet with a remarkable voice in the saturated landscape of poetry.
Coffee House Press, 2014: $16.95