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Moveable Darkness

Ron Houchin

ISBN: 1 903392 24 1

Page Count: 68

Publication Date: Sunday, September 01, 2002

Cover Artwork: Ariyan


About this Book

Our eyes are instruments of light that register darkness as absence of light. We never see darkness. We don't know for certain what it is. Shadows moving under the moon and shade growing from the ground in sunlight give the illusion that darkness moves. Even night appears to slide around the planet, but darkness never moves, only is moved, controlled by the position of light. Our bodies, filled with darkness, move darkness, give darkness a self. These poems tracking that movement, metaphorically and literally, search for the opposite of self, as light is the opposite of darkness.


Author Biography

Ron Houchin, a retired public school teacher in the Appalachian region of southernmost Ohio, taught for thirty years. Though raised on the remote banks of the Ohio River in Huntington, West Virginia, he has travelled throughout Europe, Canada, and the U.S.  His work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, The Southwest Review, Appalachian Heritage, The New Orleans Review, and over two hundred other venues. He has been awarded an Ohio Arts Council Grant for teachers of the arts, a tutorial fellowship to teach in a Dublin writing workshop, a poetry prize from Indiana University, as well as a book of the year award from the Appalachian Writers' Association.  His poems have been featured on Verse Daily. He has published three collections with Salmon.


Read a sample from this book

The possibility of magic
 
In a few years,
when I've perfected
myself so
no one needs me,
and the witchcraft
of the world is worn
out in me, like a liver
or a lung, I'll go
to Prince Edward Island.
 
On the north shore,
there's a shale and
plaster cabin. The wallpaper
curls like toothless lips
in and out of a crack
in one wall.
 
Far out the ocean wears
tired lace about its neck.
With ruffled wrists,
it plays the shell game
all day on the sand.
 
Each high tide tongues
the rocks and tickles
the crack. A fine spray
whispers through the wall
like the breath of
an excited conspirator.
 
I can sit all night,
my feet almost in the fire,
can smoke whatever has
dried on the roof,
encourage the brown spider
under the mantel,
watch red maple leaves practice
card tricks in the doorway,
and wait while darkness
 
pronounces its abracadabra,
and the moon rises
from the tips of trees.


Reviews

"Even as I begin to write this review, I see the periods in the heading as seeds, an image given me by Ron Houchin in his poem 'Arcturean Tree Poets.' The whole collection is like that -- image after memorable image, metaphor after startling metaphor. This is a book I promise myself to read over and over and over."

Barbara Smith, Grab-a-Nickel: vol.xxiv no.1 from Alderson-Broaddus College in Phillippi, West Virginia


"His poetry is distinctive, enjoyable, audacious."

Ted McNulty, Poetry Ireland Review, Winter 1997


Adirondack Review * * * * Reviewed Aug. 5, 2002 by Ace Boggess

In his second collection (after Death and the River), poet Ron Houchin taps into a current running through the A.M. hours in equal parts insomnia and fascination. With Moveable Darkness, Houchin depicts the cerebral world discovered in black of night with equal vividness as the visual musculature moving the afternoons. For example, in "After hours," he describes himself as "a patron locked/ in the museum of my body," writing:

The flattest part of night,
I stroll through stone and canvas
brows, lips, wrists, and breasts
that stare and try to speak.

That sort of inward reflection fills much of Moveable Darkness. However, it can be contrasted in almost every instance to the colorful life and death of more tangible and visual scenes, as in "Flowers waiting to burn":

The two orchids in the patio pond
know something is wrong.
Black and yellow flames dance in
pond water light.
Delicate blossoms shine, pink and ivory,
amid angered sun and darkness.
. . .
But these flowers burn in two fires
at once.

Houchin successfully navigates the murky channel between image and idea. His writing swims at times to a great depth, while at other times he glides across the surface like a skier. At his best, Houchin achieves both of these effects at once as he does in the poem "Blue":

There was no blue in Helen's hair ribbons,
and none of the skies over Troy
carried enough colour to notice.
 
No blue in the Red Sea
as Moses lifted his arms,
nor in any eyes of King David's wives.

These poems also harbor a seriousness and austerity that makes them hard to ignore. One can imagine Wallace Stevens reading these poems in his slow, precise, meditative tone. Houchin's poems, in fact, recall the work of Stevens more than that by contemporary writers. He uses them to meditate and imagine. They reveal the world outside the window and then they reveal the window, too. They contemplate meaning as readily as appearance, then say goodbye to both with long, resigned sighs.

Moveable Darkness also is a visually magnificent book. A lake-and-moon portrait by Ariyan cloaks the cover in rich purple, pastel blue, black and white, with a nebulous figure on a boat pulling moonlight in a bucket from the water. The physical book is like Houchin's poems in that way: a vivid portrait without and a different world full of ideas within.

Recommendation: This is a book worth having on shelves, coffee tables, night stands. Moveable Darkness sings with the severity of oarsmen lashed to their oars, wailing for their journey that never seems to end. Take the ride. See where it leads you. The places you go more than make up for the fare.


"Even as I begin to write this review, I see the periods in the heading as seeds, an image given me by Ron Houchin in his poem 'Arcturean Tree Poets.' The whole collection is like that -- image after memorable image, metaphor after startling metaphor. This is a book I promise myself to readover and over and over." Barbara Smith, Grab-a-Nickel, vol.xxiv no.1 from Alderson-Broaddus College in Phillippi, West Virginia "His poetry is distinctive, enjoyable, audacious."

Ted McNulty, Poetry Ireland Review, Winter 1997

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