I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language

H.L. Hix. Etruscan (SPD, dist.), $17 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-9897532-0-3
Prolific and philosophically ambitious, Hix (As Much As, if Not More Than) offers some of his most beautiful lines in years in his second collection of the year. Short poems about pain, loss, and absence return to the resonant monostichs at which he excels, some chthonically mysterious, some funny. The fantastic, eccentric “Dream Lexicon” comprises 135 imaginative definitions for single words: “spigot,” for example, means “a man with a mallet making measured movements against oak to give discreet vent to the vintage within.” And the sweepingly confident sonnet sequence “Dream Logic,” written in response to Hix’s interviews with other contemporary writers, unfolds into a sheaf of aphorisms fit for quoting on their own: “Even on cold nights, not all brilliance mimics the crystalline.” Hix has a reputation for books conceived as projects, sometimes at the expense of individual poems. Here, though, the poems can stand alone, none more so than the arresting portraits and spare inquiries of the book’s varied final segment, “Dream Longing,” where long scenic couplets alternate with short-lined abstractions, each presenting absence; haunting, erotic loss; or symbols for them all: “hand-me-down dinnerware that stood/ first for hope, then in place of memory.” Hix is at best stunningly inventive, at worst prolix—regardless, there’s a lot to like. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/15/2014
Release date: 02/01/2015
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