The poems in Cynthia Hogue’s collection, Or Consequence, range from meditations on “freedom” to poems crossing cultural and formal boundaries. The first and third sections introduce a series of informal études, which contemplate timeless aspects of human experience (love, power, memory, trust, war and peace). Such subjects are brought to bear on language as excavation and reclamation in Hogue’s central section, a discrete series entitled “Under Erasure/ Ars Cora,” after the last slave, Cora Arsene, to use the courts to sue for freedom on the eve of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hogue’s poem cycle meditates on traces: traces of a lost life, of a presence that has been erased, part of the palimpsest that is post-Katrina New Orleans (a city in which Hogue once lived).
In the case of Cora Arsene, Hogue finds such a trace lying unnoticed, forgotten, but sign of a dynamic, courageous presence that persists. These poems invoke this presence in classic lyric strategy, but not to rëembody the lost but to follow the trace’s thread from the real to the sublime. Hogue’s is an innovative poetics of inquiry, an analytic lyric striking a balance between method and music, collage and image, and finally, between violence and that other ancient human capacity, love.
Always a pioneer, with Or Consequence Cynthia Hogue enters new realms of visionary, speculative intelligence. She has become a student of “nubilous, light-flecked water,” of consciousness as ontological and historical eld. Her brilliantly complex poems vibrate with the absorptions and surprise of unbidden confrontations. ey are supremely attentive ctions, awake to the reciprocities of love, power, karma, listening, trust, and memory, accountable to the expansive transformations of generosity and the most nuanced particulates of thought and feeling. “Consequence” broadens to include the gap between cause and e ect, intention and expression, a terrain so ample it embraces pathos, tragedy, exaltation, and even comic associations as phrases eroded by use are rewired and weirded into freshness. is is a poetry of conscience, but Hogue’s witnessing is delicate rather than didactic, rich with insurrections of mind and language. She is, moreover, an intensely visual poet whose subtle and various use of white space recalls the many forms of emptiness enumerated in Buddhism. I can think of no recent book that better suggests the turbulent and sublime possibilities of poetry.
Cynthia Hogue finessing her materials with such wishful genius, chiasmically asking the pure questions: how to create space upon habitually imbruted ground, all the while Beauty, in an arched fold awaits us.
With Or Consequence a gentleness is thrust into the clamor which does not diminish the firmness wherein these lines lie in waiting, asserting the historical record here, imagining the human options there: “Upon which so much.”