Wendell Hawken

Books by Wendell Hawken at the Backwaters Press

The Luck of BeingThe Luck of Being by Wendell Hawken

Author: Wendell Hawken
Format: Paperback, 80 pages
ISBN: 9780981693613
Published: July 2008

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Critical Praise for Wendell Hawken’s The Luck of Being

Wendell Hawken is a lyric poet who weaves dense imagery that catches her readers up and wraps us tight while a story pools darkly, beautiful as unfinished fringe, around us. Here is both honesty and mystery in poems exploring a changed life, a second marriage, farm life chosen late, the death of a loved if distant mother, the birth of a grandchild, and the poet’s own inevitable aging. Here too are unflinching poems of the animal world, both wild and domestic, that place human beings squarely in and of that world, but made lucky by the poet’s vision. A marvelous debut collection!
Betty Adcock – Author of Intervale: New and Collected Poems

In these sure-footed, direct yet graceful poems, Wendell Hawken brings to a largely urban or suburban culture news of the farm: its rigors, surprise (or “startle” as one poem beautifully puts it), losses and joys. Although this is her first book, there is nothing of the novice in it; Hawken is as accomplished in language—the subtleties of line and syntax—as she is in conveying the facts of life and death experienced by animals human, domesticated and wild. The speaker in The Luck of Being embraces life as it’s lived “on the ground,” with husband, aging mother, daughter, grand-child; and the wordless beings who share her life—“moon-eyed” mare; bottle-fed calf abandoned by its mother and slated, like the rest, to be “bid up—cent by cent—per pound”; wild dogs that “[h]er neck hairs knew before she did”; the “trophy buck” wounded to preserve his rack; the old horse who’ll “drop his nose into [her] hand/and let himself be found.” Beyond the farm, news of “the current war” steadily strikes the speaker’s consciousness, as in the sequence “In Bow Season” whose refrain contains the names of young soldiers dead in Iraq. “Within the Confines of This Pasture How the Universe is Understood” is the title of one poem, but it expresses the accomplishment of the whole collection; a reader of The Luck of Being is lucky to have these poems, which will lodge, as Frost said, where they will be hard to get rid of.
Joan Aleshire – Author of Litany of Thanks

These are fiercely rich, omnivorous poems. Attending to life on a Virginia farm, Wendell Hawken lets us in on the suckling of calves and slaughtering of cows, nature observed in tooth and claw, and family life, with its odd moments of loveliness and hours of loss. “The red fox is the dream,” Hawken writes, and to enter that dream and other many truths besides, read this urgent, authentic book.
Barbara Ras – Winner, 1997 Walt Whitman Award

Poems from Wendell Hawken’s The Luck of Being

The twin calf I bring home to feed
a two-quart bottle twice a day
tugs the nipple, butts the bottleas calves do teats and udders,
and at the empty sssss, spits the rubber out

to suck my fingers.
Her mouth is ridged like mine.

Her rough tongue curls as mine had
pressed thumb to palate.

I let her lean into my leg, suck until
she tires. Soon she will go out

with the summer heifers, learn
grass and shade, trough water.

Not a damn thing I could do to make
her mother take her but for a few weeksmore, she can lean into my leg
and suck some comfort from my thumb.

Without calves bawling for their grain
or white heads bobbing on the run
to whee-boys shaken buckets,
it’s gotten quiet here.Last year’s first-born, a number on his hip,
I didn’t see him bid up, cent by cent, per pound,
didn’t see which black hat bought him.But the day before he left, after evening feed,
I scratched behind his ears and ran my fingernails
up and down his long white throat.
His brown eyes lolled behind their lids,
relishing my hands.

I am capable of anything.

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