A Map of the Lost World

Rick Hilles
  • Review
By – December 18, 2012

We must remem­ber our his­to­ry, yet Rick Hilles believes it is the telling of it that will shape the mem­o­ry that lives in future gen­er­a­tions of Jews through­out the world. So he strives to tell the mem­o­ries, begin­ning with Nights and Days of 2007: Autumn.” Here he and his friends sit down by a Oui­ja board, enter­tain­ing the spir­it of a friend, Jason, from col­lege, then a Pol­ish resis­tance fight­er, Ste­fan: Our con­ver­sa­tion with Ste­fan hinges on an idea,/the Old Tes­ta­ment notion – that to kill a man/​Is to kill an entire gen­er­a­tion. And from the Talmud:/ To save one life is as if one saved the entire world.’” A defin­i­tive, sear­ing descrip­tion of a 9/11 mem­o­ry fol­lows: I froze on footage of the Twin Tow­ers falling again./How to explain the next sensation?/…Fine as the motes of old skin tum­bling in sunlight,/ The bliz­zard of the past lit up in rooms like shoot­ing stars/​Swirling con­stel­la­tions. All of which we are.” In the midst of a clear con­nec­tion to the poet Keats, Hilles describes in a poem con­nect­ed to James Mer­rill the dis­tinct beau­ty of the phe­nom­e­na of touch­ing and kiss­ing, “…Or at the promise of the touch to come/​a sin­gle note struck in the choir of itself,/when made to sing in us, is madri­gal-/a res­o­nance of every clear perception…the res­o­nance instead becomes the love/​we can do least with­out.” Hap­pi­ly, we don’t have to do with­out the imagery and fig­u­ra­tive lan­guage of what can, in Rick Hilles’ poet­ry, nev­er be lost.

Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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