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News: The Hunter at ARC’s How Poems Work

March 3, 2009

The opening poem from my 2003 book, The Hunter, is under review at ARC Magazine’s How Poems Work feature this month. Nigel Beale examines the poem from his perspective, providing his key for reading it. I used to like the “How Poems Work” feature in the Globe and Mail a few years ago, so it’s nice that ARC has decided to continue the tradition of providing individual readings for individual poems.

The poem works then because it attaches itself to canonical words, pushes through intriguing sets of thin, thought-provoking binary opposites, looks at the horizon, and formulates a complicated commentary both on the globe’s future physical environment, and humankind’s perilous rejection of wise thinking in favour of greedy consumption. In short, the poem’s complex ambiguity invites engagement: it’s not too late to save the world from ignorant human behaviour. Alternatively, Murray himself has described the Hunter as angry, and the poem’s ‘Promised Land’ can just as easily be interpreted ironically, apocalyptically, as it can hopefully.

The poem succeeds because neither it, nor its central character is static. He changes, like most of us do, over time. The ‘he’ in the poem evolves from a dissatisfied beast into an insatiable destroyer, from a threatening spirit, to, in the end, a loving hopeful human being struggling simply to stay alive who is intent, possibly, on creating a better world—or at least on trying to save this one. Godlike, beaten, but not dead. Not yet, at least while there is still the capacity to ‘look up’, to hope, despite a barren landscape. Resurrected. Mail fisted.

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