Julie Hanson’s award-winning collection, Unbeknownst, gives us plainspoken poems of unstoppable candor. They are astonished and sobered by the incoming data; they are funny; they are psychologically accurate and beautifully made. Hanson’s is a mind interested in human responsibility—to ourselves and to each other—and unhappy about the disappointments that are bound to transpire (“We’ve been like gods, our powers wasted”). These poems are lonely with spiritual longing and wise with remorse for all that cannot last.
“The Kindergartners” begins, “All their lives they’ve waited for / the yellow bus to come for them,” then moves directly to the present reality: “Now it’s February and the mat / is wet.” Settings and events are local and familiar, never more exotic than a yoga session at the Y, one of several instances where the body is central to the report and to the net result (“I slip in and fold / behind the wheel into the driver’s seat like a thin young thing: / My organs are surely glistening. This car was made for me.”).These poems are intimate revelations, thinking as they go, including the reader in the progress of their thought.
“Julie Hanson’s poems are so winningly direct, so deft in tuning and alert in movement, that you only half-notice how beautifully oblique they are—‘the ways around / a thing unsaid are myriad / and free’—and how entrancing. Until you look up at the end, a little surprised at how far you’ve been carried in a few moments, at how much you’ve been . . . not exactly told but shown how to feel.”—James Richardson, author, Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms
“A wry eye and a keen sense of the actual rule this delightful collection. In a sincere and compassionate attempt to get at the undertones of daily life, Hanson looks and speaks frankly about the intimate, the private, the deep insides of act and feeling. This is a book that uses thought as a microscope to reveal intricacies that open onto new intricacies—the kind of book you look up from to find your own life richer, reverberating.”—Cole Swensen
“’To encapsulate the unattainable,’ part of the title of the final poem in Unbeknownst, is a good description of the task Julie Hanson’s poems set themselves. With patient and ingenious variation, Hanson’s poetry sifts and cleans and weeds and redeems such hard-to-pin-down processes as thinking, reading, dreaming, and conversing—in other words, living. Grounded in the quotidian and with a fine ear for vernacular (as in the wonderful ‘Grab the Far End’), Hanson is nevertheless an explorer of the transcendent.”—Rachel Hadas, author, The Ache of Appetite
“The poems in Julie Hanson’s delightful Unbeknownst are natural and shapely, with a subtle architecture that you inhabit all the more fully because you hardly notice it. Their language is relaxed and exact, pervaded by an understated and touching humor, and yet the poems hover on the edge of mystery, the mystery of thought. They move in directions that are surprising and unpredictable but that in retrospect seem inevitable, as you ‘slowly make out the shape / of all of this, which is to think.’ Unbeknownst is a masterful and moving book.”—John Koethe
2012 Kate Tufts Poetry Awards Finalist