Information about the poet.
These are poems of critical thought that have been influenced by old fiddle tunes. These are essays that are not out to persuade so much as ruminate, invite, accrue. Hall is a surruralist (rural and surreal), and a terroir-ist (township-specific regionalist). He offers memories of, and homages to—Margaret Laurence, Bronwen Wallace, Libby Scheier, and Daniel Jones, among others. He writes of the embarrassing process of becoming a poet, and of his push-pull relationship with the whole concept of home. His notorious 2004 chapbook essay “The Bad Sequence” is also included here, for a wider readership, at last. It has been revised. (Its teeth have been sharpened.) In this book, the line is the unit of composition; the reading is wide; the perspective personal: each take a give, and logic a drawback. In Fred Wah’s phrase, what is offered here is “the music at the heart of thinking.”
The title of An Oak Hunch comes from one of the sequences in this five-sequence book of poems: Phil Hall’s homage to a poetic mentor, Al Purdy. Its subtitle is “Essay on Purdy,” and these highly original, highly personal takes on the poetry and the life of Al Purdy “essay” in the root sense of the word: attempt or probe. The other four sequences, “The Interview,” “Mucked Rushes,” “Gang Pluck” and “Index of First Lines” are also probes, each of a different sort, written in a language that stretches the denotative values of words. Phil Hall is as leftist as he ever was, but his recent books like Trouble Sleeping have also been adventures in language. His writing shines with a new economy reminiscent of that of some of the so-called “language poets.” Sometimes the poems of An Oak Hunch carry a narrative, sometimes they are leaping and lyrical, but they are all composed of word-music that connects the ear and the heart. …[more]