Aislinn Hunter's Linger, Still is a collection of poems that asks its reader to be still inside, to observe, and to pay attention to the small, quiet bits of beauty in the world. In one of her stunning "Esk" poems, Hunter writes: "Begin with what presents itself." This is what most poets strive to do, but not many do it as well and as artfully as Hunter.
So much of Linger, Still is about recognizing the transient nature of our mortality and, in so doing, being able to celebrate and honour life's complexities. If we can't make peace with the shadows, then we won't be able to see the light. The passage of time makes itself known through preserved animal skeletons and bodies present in the elegant museum shadow box of "I Came to See the Beautiful Things." Here, the poet refers to taxidermy hummingbirds as "death's dark similes" and sees a jar of preserved salamander eggs as proof of a "dance that goes back millennia." Animals and birds weave themselves throughout the collection, a hopeful ribbon of imagery that reminds us that "some animals express more with a flick of a tail" than some humans can ever muster.
The collection's epigraph, from Irish poet Dermot Healy, speaks of how life's certainties are tightly woven into its uncertainties. Everything overlaps. Even in living, we are constantly reminded of the way in which a memento mori might nudge us, through the image of a still life, perhaps with a "pear with worm in it," or "a man with a pansy and a skull." Beyond this, though, Linger, Still finds its true beauty in the "O, heart--" poems. In these pieces, Hunter writes of "the hope/that someone will love us" and the way in which the moments in our lives are "light on the water, light in our eyes,/light refracting light." In Linger, Still, the poet asks us to mind the fox and the deer--and our own beloved ones--and to honour their presences, as well as their departures.
REVIEW BY KIM FAHNER