Compass, a collection of new and selected poems, by Erik Hansen is a lovely, quite book. Organized into three sections, labeled by a date and location, each of the 42 poems appears to be grounded in the speaker’s reality of the moment.
Almost every poem is written in lines that are succinct and visually short, taking up limited space on the page. I will admit that on first read I missed the beauty of this collection. It was while rereading “Honeysuckle Stone” that Hansen’s voice clicked. The short lines and limited punctuation, with the flowing “-ly” words and lack of hard stops give these poems a quiet, almost hunter’s tread feel. They are steady and soft.
The downside, which I succumbed to in my first read, is that they can be so quiet you might miss them.
I could talk about the natural imagery that is precise, or the progression from longer, more wide sweeping poems to simple, in the moment, pieces. But what really struck me was the beautiful and careful use of sound. “Hush” and “Raven” echo each other with the long “I” sound and the repeated bird imagery. The long “I” also appears in “Solstice,” which is one of my favorites. “Aerials” mimics the soaring images with an abundance of words with the “s” sound. The first four lines alone hit the sound hard; “High above the fields/And forests/Soaring the spring sky/Circles a pair of hawks.”
Once I got into what Hansen was doing, I really enjoyed this collection. I’d be happy to read more from this poet.
The Dog Eared Count for Compass:
Oxford, Storm Clouds Over Elsinore, Honeysuckle Stone, 5:30 A.M., Aerials, Infinity, Stars, Solstice, Hush, Ravens