IN WHICH I PLAY THE RUNAWAY
Hurt shows us, skillfully and strikingly, that the stories and archetypes which provide frameworks for our thinking, that build community across geographic and temporal boundaries, are also a subtle and deeply unsettling presence in what we once thought were private exchanges.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
Hurt writes with a rare honesty and depth. Clearly, she can explore two conflicting ideas in her head at the same time and still write a ground-moving poem.
In Which I Play the Runaway gifts us the voice of a poet who is not only willing but determined to trouble the conventions of two-dimensional portraiture. Here, fables and futures, memory and mythology, and objects and subjects flicker out of their assigned places in the diorama’s mirror so that we might re-imagine the transformative possibilities of a sense of place: “home is a bullet” the I “swallows again and again,” and from an empty grave, a girl will wake “not saved…but changed.” Hurt insists on the irreducibility of the daughters, wives, women, and girls who find any concept of home in this book, in which “all the women I’ve been…have never ceased / to believe they exist.” We are lucky to have this book in the world.
—Lo Kwa Mei-en
“I was born with a gift for gall and grit,” Rochelle Hurt writes—a line that echoes through every poem in this collection. She spares nothing and bares all that needs baring about family, place, and relationships—how they reflect each other, blurred in tarnished mirrors. With a Sylvia Plath-like abandon and urgency, every single word feels completely necessary; words spoken with a vigor and honesty that are felt in the gut; words that remain lodged in the back of the throat.
It’s as if Hurt took a map of America, redrew all the state lines, and saved only the best city names: Aimwell, Nightmute, Neverstill, Honesty. Then she filled those towns with tough beauty and longing, everyday objects and encounters acquiring new weight in a landscape that aches like home while also striking us with its singularity. “As expected, after the wedding, the house / became a cough we lived in, trembling / in the throat of that asthmatic spring,” begins the poem “Self-Portrait in Needmore, Indiana,” which goes on to show us, “The streets stacked and curved like fingers / on a grease-knuckled hand gripping / the waist of our Midwestern dream.” This is an unforgettable book, a vital and compelling voice.
Review at Cincinnati Review