John Ashbery called Reveilles, Nathan Hoks’s debut book, a “dazzling” collection and Hoks a poet whose “fine gradations of observation turn the reader into a barometer of strong subtleties like those of the weather, that can be minute even as they affect us powerfully.” The poems in Hoks’s new book, The Narrow Circle, perform a similar magic. In associative lyrics and fabulist prose, Hoks explores inner and outer experiences. The poems frequently focus on the body as a membrane where everything becomes inside-outwhere the “face disperses with angels of teeth and loam,” where “sky comes out of the mouth,” where a giant green worm “burrows a hole in the head,” and where the heart is a vestibule that cannot be closed. Suites of pictures within the text further delineate this inward-outward pull, offering visualizations of interior voices and sketches of exterior shadows.
FLIGHT TO THE INTERIOR
I’ve got secrets I’m about to leave in the river
And it makes me feel homeless to stand here
Having to think them through.
Silence yourself, says the tree line—
You are miniature, absorbing
Time on your way to the end of the tunnel.
You are about to enter an orange plain
And the sound in your head will be
A car starting in the rain. You will fill yourself
With pockets. You will file your nails
Until the heart of your ghost fills with glowing juice.
Finally you feel fully washed of your self,
Blown into several pieces of sky, transparent
But also a bloblike raindrop.
For the rest of the day you will glue
Blue and green squares to the tree trunks.
Every rooting leaf is a form of speculation
You have inherited from the raindrop.
When the shadow splatters, the thing itself splatters.
All of us become the river.