Sarah Hulyk introduced by Martin Cockroft
Sarah Hulyk’s poetry is both careful and daring.
Shrugging off the insouciance of some of her contemporaries, Sarah is not afraid to take seriously the subjects of her poems, and her poetry has the formal rigor of free verse that, as Eliot said, is never free for those who want to write well.
This careful approach is balanced by her admiration for the deep image poets. The image that anchors Sarah’s writing is not, as Bly wrote of imagism, an arid picture made with words, but rather “an animal native to the imagination.” As such, Bly’s image is risky. Sarah meets this risk with aplomb in lines like these:
And while her study of Antonio Machado and Garcia Lorca is apparent, I also detect some of Basho and Issa’s attention to word and silence, Charles Wright’s long, effortless line, and Jane Kenyon’s elevation of the ordinary.
Sarah’s is a voice I’m honored to introduce—a voice I look forward to hearing in the future as it gains clarity and resonance.
During long Thursday mornings,
when the moon remained a sleepless icon in the sky,
the tall priest smoked
on his porch steps and watched the bright sun resting
above the church steeple.
No one attended mass on those days—
—not even the priest.
The fog, slipping into the sanctuary, hung thick,
and warped the back pews.
Had anyone been praying, their lungs
would have filled with old incense and candle wax.
The priest's smoke hid within the fog
and found its way to the roof
where it clung to the rusted bells.
Poem for Sappho
I saw you wandering
near the gray pines.
digging into the damp, dark earth,
shaking her yellow soul.
spoke your name softly
You took flight then
as a bird with weeping feathers,
long, forked tail drooping, reaching for the ground.
Breathe the heavy
sighs of the city with me.
Pray on the crumbling stoop of my mouth.
I pick bright embers
from your hair and mine, toss
them, like bread to birds, for our unborn
children who have followed us
(as ghosts—dark with the gift
since the sidewalk began.
In the pot of oil
sat a man, filling up the whole
jar with his brown skin
knees against the clay side, head
tipped to look at whoever comes
for oil and finds him.
Both of us alone, hands together.
You blush on the brick wall, and I—
I wait for the rain to begin, for the wind
to shake your thin body, to lift and carry you
toward the black, wet handrail.
The people yelling in the parking lot cling to each
other, and I think of you,
upside down on the screen of my kitchen window,
how, earlier, I'd seen you shuffling
across the pavement.
When we first saw the dead hummingbird,
rumpled and bent on the pavement,
we agreed it was the saddest
thing we'd ever seen.
Its white breast and green wings
waiting for an empty shoebox
And as we passed
feet thumping instead of its loosened heart
how much my mother loves hummingbirds.