The poet Christian Hawkey was born in 1969 and grew up on Pine Island, Florida. He was later educated on both the West and East coasts, and he completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. It was there, in the year 2000, that he co-founded the bi-annual poetry journal “jubilat”, for which he is now an editor-at-large. Four years later his first award-winning volume appeared, “The Book of Funnels”, followed by a chapbook and a further collection, which was received with equal enthusiasm by critics. Hawkey has been Associate Professor for English and Creative Writing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn since 2004. His poems have been published in newspapers and journals such as “Conjunctions”, “Volt”, “Denver Quarterly”, “Tin House”, “Crowd”, “BOMB”, “Chicago Review”, “Best American Poetry”, “Conduit,” and “Manuskripte” and translations by German poets Uljana Wolf and Steffen Popp have appeared in “Die Zeit” and “Sprachegebunden.”
Hawkey’s poetry stems in part from the tradition of American Surrealism, which his instructor at Amherst, James Tate, established nationwide and made native to the American vernacular. Another source of inspiration has been John Ashbery, the outstanding representative of the New York School. On Hawkey’s debut Ashbery reasoned that these poems are “landscape poetry in the true sense of landscape – not a segment of the earth's surface posing for its picture, but an open, undetermined space in which all kinds of crazy mental and physical things are going about their business simultaneously. What emerges is a portrait of a medium like the one we live in, with all its unexpectedness. The ‘Book of Funnels’ is one of the most beautiful first books of poetry I have read in a long time.”
The poems in Hawkey’s most recent volume, “Citizen of Of” (2007) navigate between internal and external landscapes, between imagined worlds and so-called real worlds. These multiple sites are effortlessly woven together with associatively linked themes, situations, images, political subtexts, and words, the syntax often balancing on the margin of its dissolution through excessive enjambement, sparse punctuation and ellipses. Linguistic and even typographical patterns emerge but are only partially taken up and perpetuated. Thus a rhizomatic texture arises that not only enables surprising effects of meaning and emotion but also allows, in incidental, humorous and stimulating ways, for the active performance of language as a medium of cognition, thought and feeling. The poem “The Birth of a Nation”, for example, is both a critical and entertaining play of cultural categories and usages, thereby investigating the linguistic link between birth and the Nation State: “... Do they have a flag? Is it a thumbnail, a painted tooth, a tattoo // on the eyelid so that, at night, the nation sleeps as one nation? And the colors? Lampblack // to celebrate their powers of night vision? Peach, for sensuality. // Neon mahogany to symbolize their love of wood products? // Would other nations refuse to fly such an ugly flag? ...”
In his translation project, “Ventrakl”, Hawkey applies himself to even larger extent to associations within language, assiduously ignoring its content and usefulness as a means of communication. The project received a Creative Capital grant. It presents translations of Trakl poems that are constructed on the sole basis of “sound associations”, the graphic appearance of the text, as well as on background biographical information. Interspersed “interviews” with the “ghost” of Trakl explore links to current political themes.
Hawkey has been awarded the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and prizes from the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Fund. His poems have appeared in French, Portuguese, Slovenian and German translation. He was one of 19 young American poets chosen for the anthology “Schwerkraft” (2007), which introduced them to German readers. In the spring of 2008 a selection of his poems, most likely entitled “Reisen in Ziegengeschwindigkeit”, will be published. The poet lives in New York.
English language publications
The Book of Funnels. Verse Press, Amherst, M.A.
HourHour. With drawings buy Ryan Mrozowski. Delirium Press, Montréal
Citizen of O. Wave Books, Seattle