2014 Featured Festival Poet: Tung Hui Hu

Posted on by Victoria Russell, Festival Assistant

Photo Courtesy of MinePoems.com

Below is a video of Tung Hui Hu reading poems from his three books of poetry The Book of Motion, Mine, and Greenhouses, Lighthouses:

Hu’s soft delivery beckons the listener to lean closer and pay attention, while on the page, his words blossom under slow, careful reading and rereading, focus and contemplation.

Hu’s quietude, however, should not be confused with dullness. He is a twenty-first century Renaissance man whose poetry reflects his depth of experience and knowledge. He holds degrees from Princeton, Michigan, and UC Berkeley, where he studied subjects ranging from architecture to poetry. Hu has worked as a political consultant, a computer scientist, and a professor of Creative Writing. His poetry is likewise richly eclectic and full of oddities, like an antiques shop creaking excitedly under the weight of old maps, mismatched furniture, and vintage toys.

And yet Hu’s poetry is decidedly uncluttered. “Here there is breath,” declares the first line of his first book of poems. The poem is entitled “A rock a fish,” a title stripped of punctuation, standing undiluted in its clear imagery. Hu knows how to focus—on one image, one story, one character, while still offering moment after beautiful moment of breathtaking imagery drawn from nature.

Perhaps it is his background in architecture that allows Hu to move fluidly and effortlessly through the landscapes of his poems, which often investigate the boundaries and convergences  of the subject and its environment, the internal and the external, the material and the spiritual, all inextricably linked, endlessly separating and returning to each other.

“it was this easy / to move between life and / not-life, solid and liquid.”

Hu’s poetry is fluid not just in its visual and sonic movement from one line to the next, but in its treatment of objects. His poem “To Make a Hole in a Day as a Nap” is a beautiful example of his ability to inventively repurpose objects, rearrange their parts and functions. “Divide time like a piece of fruit,” the poem commands. “make clocks out of water and clocks / out of honey and paint and dandelions…place an apple next to another / and start this cycle of nearness / which we call a clock, / ripening.”

Again, Hu’s poetry defies quick and definitive categorization, for it is not only intelligent and thought-provoking, but also warm, witty, and funny. Take, for example, “The Wish Answered,” which begins:

Several years ago I discovered

how easily love and food are confused,

when I thought I was in love with someone

but really it was a skipped lunch,

forgive me, I was young

Hu is an explorer, navigating through space and time by the compass of his imagination. He deftly balances abundance and bareness, tells stories of children asleep in class, of opulent countries and kings, of the sight of snow on a cornfield, all the while leaving space for breath.

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We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org

One Response to 2014 Featured Festival Poet: Tung Hui Hu

  1. Madeline Tiger says:

    This article about Hu, with the impressive examples from his work, was very enriching.
    I hadn’t heard of him before, didn’t know anything about him. Do now… at least a little.
    I’ll be very pleased to attend his reading at the Festival, and will certainly buy at least one of his books. He seems more than charming, but deeply inventive… thoughtful and
    resourceful, witty and provocative. Thank you. —Madeline

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