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Into the Early Hours

by Aislinn Hunter

Given the critical recognition awarded her first book of stories published earlier this year, it comes as no surprise that B.C. writer Aislinn Hunter is an accomplished storyteller. Crossing genres with her second book, Hunter also brings this same storytelling talent to her first collection of poetry, Into the Early Hours.
Hunter’s strong storytelling voice blurs the lines between poetry and prose throughout the collection. Written with long prosaic lines, a strong linear movement, and nicely rendered characters, many of these poems can only be distinguished as poems because of their adherence to formal poetic structure: “She is ten or eleven, standing in the playground/in a blue fluted summer dress, hands in pockets/watching the other girls as they grab the rusted railing,/dig their sneakers into the sand,/push the merry-go-round until it’s really spinning.”
The first two sections of the book present these tightly woven narratives, taking subjects from both Hunter’s family history and the cultural inheritance of the 20th century. In the third section, aptly titled “What We Saw, Having Come Through the Other Side,” Hunter explores her life on the West Coast of B.C.
It’s here that her poems begin to burn with poetic, rather than narrative, energy. Her imagistic representation of minor details in these poems are the strongest moments in the collection. A poem about a garden, a late night bike ride, or a walk along the water comes alive with the strength of her metaphors:
The weather its own sort of miracle
a string of nights so clear and cold, the Bay
could have been mistaken for sky, and was,
how standing on the beach at Stanley Park
I almost stepped into it, a liquid field of quartz stars.
In these moments, Hunter lets herself be a poet first, and storyteller second.