Holoholo is the Hawaiian word for walking out with no destination in mind. In the three sections of this book, Barbara Hamby walks out into the current American chaos with its inferno of wars, street violence, apocalyptic fantasies, and racial tension. Fueled by an American lingo that embraces slang, Yiddish, street talk, and the yearning to be able to describe her moment in time, these poems encompass the complicated past, difficult present, and unknown future. Every foray offers a glimpse of the world constructed from one woman’s collage of consciousness.
Ode on My Nightingale
My nightingale is the conquistador of moonlight, the engine of divine hullabaloo, the dance party of shining headlights on a dark road past midnight, the thrill of that first kiss in the battered Chevette, the wrong turn that made me burn my map, clap twice, summon my djinn. My nightingale is the stake in my heart that can’t be dislodged, the hodge-podge of my brain at two a.m. when the drunks have gone home or passed out in the street. My nightingale trills in the darkness, thinks of nothing but his song, says forget me at your peril for I am the tiara of rain that falls from the purple sky, the lies you tell yourself to wake up from your dreams, so listen, for my song will fade into nothing, but nothing is made without me. I am the cosmologist of the atomic, high priest of everything you never wanted to be, all your highjacked dreams, the screams in the muddle of night, the beam of starlight on the river of sleep, for we are alone, my darling, on this planet of night, and I am your little god, your drinking water straight from the stream, for my song is spooling into the night forever and ever, amen. I am the derivative of sin. O let me in.
Past Praise for Barbara Hamby: “[Hamby] has cultivated a polyglot idiom all her own, of anecdotes, erudition, and American pop culture. She combines a deadly serious love for the power of language with irreverence; she leaps across historical periods and yokes unlikely referents.”
Barbara Hamby’s poems are wild, outspoken, seriously funny, motor-mouth rambles that take us through hoops of association to places both unexpected and unimpeachable. This collection offers a generous helping of poems so crackling with references and busy with verbal energy you might feel them buzzing in your hands.
Hamby’s poems are good-natured, gossipy, and fun . . . She attempts to render in verse the near chaos of perception that typifies human consciousness as it careens through a lifetime’s worth of unruly accident.
Barbara Hamby has published seven books of poetry, most recently BirdOdyssey and On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems. She was a 2010 Guggenheim fellow, and her book of linked stories, Lester Higata’s 20th Century, won the 2010 University of Iowa John Simmons Award and was published by the University of Iowa Press. She and her husband David Kirby edited the poetry anthology Seriously Funny. She teaches at Florida State University where she is distinguished university scholar.