Friday, March 29, 2013

Albert Huffstickler - "To My Twin Born Dead": Small Press Friday

Huff's broad appeal to audiences of poetry and non-poetry readers alike has always been amazing - that appeal seems to know no boundaries. 

One reason, it seems to me, is that generally his narrative voice and the poet himself seem to be one in the same. Not that this alone is any measure for popular appeal. If that were the case, there would be millions more "good" poets round the world.

However, that singular Huff voice, coupled with an unwavering honesty, sometimes taken to painful, confessional extremes, seems to be basic to Huff's wide renown. This is only a thought on my part - if someone was to ask me what it was that attracted me to the work, I'd simply say love. 

And I'd let the reader/listener figure exactly what I meant by that or, perhaps, what Huff meant by that. 

The poem, "To My Twin Born Dead," is an example of what I'm getting at. It is a poem of forthright honesty, based on autobiographical fact, taken deep into the lyrical realm. It's as though he has somehow put his heart on display for all, and the ache of suffering is almost too much to bear. It is, and he makes this quite clear, central to his identity and the deep feeling of loss that permeated his life and work.

"To My Twin Born Dead" comes from the fine collection of selected poems, Why I Write in Coffee Houses and Diners, which is readily available from abebooks or, if you insist on the corporate route, the big-box virtual store and is well worth your hard earned dough. 

Hey, it is Small Press Friday - pick an independent book shop from abebooks. I'm just saying. It'll do your heart, and their wallet, some good.

To My Twin Born Dead

It was like being stuck in a door,
both of us fighting to get out,
the pressure building
like there was a crowd behind us
pushing, pushing.
And then a sudden surge 
and I burst through,
hearing your voice trail away behind me
as I floundered out there in the light,
thinking, "The door was too small." 
And then later they brought you out,
a battered, lifeless thing,
and I was alone for the first time ever.

Sometimes I wonder
if all my poems are to you,
keeping a record you'll never read
of my sojourn in that place
you never reached.
Sometimes I think
they need to invent
a new word for loneliness
a sound that reaches
into the marrow of the bone
then passes on
into infinity .


Photo by Puzzler 4879

facing the gate
of elder brother...
a cold night 
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Rachael Stanley said...

What an extraordinarly powerful poem. Only today my sister was talking about her son and his wife who lost one of their twins, while the other twin is still in an incubator but will probably survive. My sister was saying that it is most important to the parents that people acknowledge the baby who died, rather than just congratulating them on the baby who remains.

Only had this conversation with her today, so quite uncanny and wonderful to find this moving poem here this evening.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Rachael ... thanks so much for sharing this. Glad for the synchronicity of this, though so much sadness is involved. I think the poem illustrates what your sister is saying, though it is from the child's point of view, so to speak. There must be recognition and grieving and attempt to understand.

LoneStarLibrarian said...

Good photo of Huff, too. I think this is one of his most profound poems. And I very much enjoyed your comments about Huff's writing.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, K., I hadn't seen that picture in awhile, or maybe even before. Huff is an inspiration to me - both as a poet and, simply, more importantly, as a person.

Mary Ahearn said...

The expression "words cannot say" is proved false with this most moving poem. He knows it, says it. All I can say is Wow! And how do you always find the perfect partner in Issa? Deeply appreciated.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


You are so right in this case. We all know that one of the amazing things about Huff is that he makes it look and sound much easier than it is.

Issa is the best,


cris said...

hi, do you have the poem "doppelganger"? i've been searching all ove for it :(
thank you in advance