Hugueney (Poems for the Soul, 2016) offers an elegantly crafted “journey of self-exploration through poetry.”
In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Ruth Franklin wrote about the persistent popularity of poet Mary Oliver, arguing that Oliver’s strength is her “accessibility: she writes blank verse in a conversational style, with no typographical gimmicks.” Reading this description, it’s easy to see why Hugueney calls Oliver “beloved,” because the younger poet’s verse can be described in very similar terms. Here, she writes about the elder writer’s influence: “I do not have woods to stroll through, as beloved / poet Mary Oliver, but there are patches of green where I live / and the smell of wet earth, chirping birds, / and a gentle breeze to lose (or is it find?) myself in.” This is Hugueney at her best—unpretentious, honest, limpid. This is her second volume, and it shows her rounding into form as a writer. Although she tackles a variety of topics in this effort, two stand out: the challenge of raising an autistic child and the struggle against a low-grade sorrow that she calls “the fog.” Hugueney has two kids, and the youngest is autistic. She writes, “Autism takes its toll. / Only the strong will be given this challenge. / So many years of feeding, sweeping, swiping, / washing, brushing. / It’s worse when I’m alone with my son. / No one to laugh with, to share with.” Sometimes, that toll seems too heavy to bear; this, it appears, is when the fog rolls in: “As I swipe the elegant marble counter / with my soggy, faded washcloth, / I suddenly feel the fog creeping in again.” One hears the creep of depression in lines like these, but it’s heartening to read an author who’s willing to write so openly about the real emotional challenges of parenthood. Further, the collection’s journey ends with hope for the speaker and for her family. A late poem reads, “I am on the right path. / Angels are lighting my way right now. / I just have to keep hold of my compass. / A new beginning is always possible.” After finishing this book, one can’t help but wish the author well as she continues on her own path.
Affliction resolves into hope and light in this cathartic collection.