Poetry

Poetry Sunday: “Eye of the Storm, Pescadero Coast, 1972,” by Christina Hutchins

 

Eye of the Storm, Pescadero Coast, 1972

The same shirt pulled over the same head
not once but again and again, a eucalyptus turned
inside out. Brutal, foam-white,

the sea tore at its rocky coast. Route One was
forsaken. The big house was unlit, the plowed yard
a pool of rain. A cloud ceiling

pressed yet lower. Along worn cliffs
in the farm workers’ small-windowed shacks, stoves
burned into the dark of the day.

It was Sunday, but only the storm made it
Sabbath. In flooded fields, unharvested
Brussels sprouts clung to their stalks.

 

From Tender the Maker (Utah State UP 2015), published with permission of the press.

 

Christina Hutchins was the 2017 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at The Frost Place in Franconia, NH. Her second book, Tender the Maker (Utah State University Press 2015), won the May Swenson Award. Other books are The Stranger Dissolves (Sixteen Rivers Press 2011), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde Prize, and two chapbooks, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air (Robin Becker Prize 2011) and Collecting Light (Acacia Books 1999). Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, The Southern Review, and The Women’s Review of Books; essays appear in volumes by Ashgate, Columbia UP, and SUNY. She holds degrees from UC-Davis, Harvard University, and the Graduate Theological Union; has worked as a biochemist and a Congregational minister; and for many years taught Whitehead’s philosophy, queer theory, and poetry to graduate students at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She currently teaches private workshops and does individual consultations. Literary awards include The Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prize, National Poetry Review’s Annie Finch Prize, two Barbara Deming/Money for Women Awards, the James D. Phelan Award, and fellowships to the Villa Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga and the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia. From 2008-2011 she served as the first poet laureate of Albany, CA.

Here, here, here, and here are some links to reviews of Tender is the Maker and interviews with its author.

 

Poet’s Note

As a child, I came to know the fields of artichokes, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts along Highway One, the damp aromas of leaves and soils layered into the salt-scent of the sea. Between Santa Cruz and Pescadero, I knew the good walking beaches and the best cliffs along the rugged shore for wave watching, especially when a storm-stirred Pacific surged the outcroppings, the greatest power I knew. Sometimes during storms, my parents, brothers, and I sat in the station wagon pulled up close to a ledge, rain pounding the metal roof, and ate sandwiches for supper, watching the drama unfold just below: the re-creation of the coast. The ocean and the storm became a single entity. Waves ate at the cliffs, walloped the rocks, became eager explosions. Water’s rolling walls burst open into the delicate, radiant energy of the air.

More discomfiting presences of my childhood were the bent backs of farmworkers and the low tin shacks where they slept. In late winter and early spring of 1972, during record rainstorms in Northern California, Cesar Chavez undertook a 24-day fast in support of United Farm Workers boycotts. The poem is set during this time. The poem also honors an earlier farmworkers union, the Federated Agricultural Laborers Association. In 1939, Filipino labor leaders Francisco Varona, Macario Bautista, and Lamberto Malinab led the first successful strike in Northern California’s coastal fields of celery, garlic, and Brussels sprouts. Such strikes are disruptions, storms that reshape our human coasts.

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  • Read “Eye of the Storm, Pescadero Coast, 1972” by 2017 Dartmouth Poet in Residence Christina Hutchins | The Frost Place November 6, 2017 at 9:18 am

    […] Women’s Voices for Change recently featured the poem “Eye of the Storm, Pescadero Coast, 1972” by Christina Hutchins from her most recent book Tender the Maker. The article also includes an note by Christina, providing further background information about the poem. Read it here! […]

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