Celebrated poet and academic director of University College’s Professional Creative Writing and Arts and Culture Management programs, Joseph Hutchison, has again graced us with another compilation of his works in his recently published Under Sleep’s New Moon: Rescued Poems 1970-1990.
Joseph’s poetry has gained fans worldwide, and he served as the Colorado Poet Laureate from 2014-2019. This work is his 20th collection of poetry, and it focuses on a range of unfinished poems from his past that he revisited and released into their true form.
“The road a poet travels is often littered with unrealized fragments, half-realized drafts, and unfinished poems that found their ways into a magazine but never earned their way into a book. If a poet is lucky, a few of such left-behinds might be “rescued,” released into their true form thanks to abilities that have ripened over many years of practice. In Under Sleep’s New Moon, Joseph Hutchison (Colorado Poet Laureate, 2014-2019) offers a range of such poems, all rescued from twenty years of writing between 1970-1990.” NYQ Books, publisher
The collection has already received high praise from those in the literary world.
“These ‘rescued’ poems by Joseph Hutchison bear a lyrical and ‘difficult witness’ to the outer and the inner world as we know it. Fueled by keen observation, ‘restless shadows,’ compassion, wonder, and a ‘cadence that rocks us,’ this is a collection both expansive and intimate. Here we have a poet’s honest and memorable voyage into the ‘endless entanglement of the bitter and the sweet,’” said Wendy Videlock, author of Nevertheless.
We asked Joseph about his poetry, the inspiration to rework his past poems, and how he chose the works he included in the publication.
Tell us about the significance of the book’s title: Under Sleep’s New Moon: Rescued Poems?
The “rescued” aspect is easiest to talk about. In my first years writing poetry (I began in high school but have succeeded in expunging most of that dreck from the record), I wrote almost every day, sometimes launching into multiple poems a day. Most of them went nowhere, of course. Some went somewhere and stalled out along the way.
Others got finished and/or found their way into print, but when I was putting together my first full-length book, The Undersides of Leaves, they did not make the cut. So, the “rescued poems” in this book consist, in part, of revised poems published in magazines. The rest are poems that I’ve gone back to off and on over the years without being able to discover their authentic form.
As for the title, well … a new moon marks the beginning of a lunar cycle, in which the new moon waxes to full and then wanes back to new. So, the new moon is pure potential. Sleep’s new moon points to the Unconscious as the source of this potential. In most folk traditions, the moon governs the realms of emotion and intuitive thinking, which is what poetry is all about. The moon is also the ruler of my astrological sign, Cancer—a water sign, which may be why there is so much wateriness in these poems.
What prompted you to begin this compilation?
I started in on these revisions in the wake of a death in our family that simply unhinged us. I’d been at work on a series of new poems, but during the mourning period and for a long time after, I simply couldn’t focus enough to continue with that work.
At the same time, certain old, unfinished poems started to nag at me again, and I figured, why not go back and rescue in words what I couldn’t rescue in life? The more I worked on old poems, the more old poems turned up asking for help.
I had just pulled together the first full manuscript of these when our family suffered a second blow, another death, and a month or so later, the virus surfaced. I discovered that polishing the revised poems was helping to keep me sane—or at least busy—and I worked on them almost every day until the manuscript went to the publisher. Even then I couldn’t let them alone. I’m lucky in having an accommodating publisher.
How did you choose which poems to include in the collection?
These are all poems that have nagged me off and on over the years. They had never let go of me, unlike the many, many others that offered nothing promising at all and so will continue to exist only in my notebooks. Thank the gods!
“A poet who tries to rescue an early poem is like a lifeguard who’s dragged a moribund swimmer out of the surf. The job is simply to coax the wretch back to life: no pushing to make it join one’s political party, no trying to inspire its conversion to one’s latest religion. Enough to help it cough up some cloudy water and successfully catch its breath; enough to bring some color back into the poem’s cheeks, and woo a bit of light back into its eyes, and help it sway to its feet—then send it on its way without passing judgment on its figure or fitness for society. Society after all must be a bit disorienting for the poem, which was born far away and in a different age. For the poet, the poem will always have a whiff of the stranger about it, even as its recovery affirms the choice not to let the ocean gobble it down. There is always the possibility, of course, that the poet’s heroism is merely egotism wearing a shiny silver whistle. For the reader’s sake, this poet hopes it isn’t so.”Joseph Hutchison, Author’s Note
Is there an overarching theme to the poems included in the collection?
What holds the book together is the struggle to create a positive relationship between the inner life and the outer life. Every poem in the book arises from that struggle.
You can read more about and learn where to purchase Under Sleep’s New Moon: Rescued Poems 1970-1990 on the NYQ Books website. The collection is also available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.