Review by Rachel Dugan
Streaming by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Coffee House Press -- December 2014
|Award-winning poet Allison Adelle Hedge Coke embraces her mixed heritage in a new book of poetry, Streaming. Known for her bold style and beautiful illustrations of indigenous Cherokee culture in America, Hedge Coke is a unique voice in the world of poetry.|
Her new book is divided into four parts, each dealing with a part of life in terms of movement: a kind of "streaming," After the prelude, a touching elegy to her mother, Hedge Coke delves into "Navigation." In this first section, she deals with physical migrations and uses vibrant images and native language to set the reader in the scene. The next part, "Breaking Cover," is dedicated to Hedge Coke's sons; it carries motifs of growth and change. In the unnumbered section, "May Suite," the poet pauses to reflect in the present, on the now. The final sections, "Where We Have Been" and "Where It Ends" are true to their names.
Though each section has a clear theme and direction, Hedge Coke's voice remains strong throughout. Her form varies, from long prose poems to short, one stanza scenes, but her style is consistent. She relies on meter, utilizing bold consonants and alliteration to create a strong rhythm in her work. Her poems beg to be read aloud, a jumble of hard sounds that wind their way into an effortless melody. Even from the first poem of "Navigation," this is evident. Hedge Coke weaves seemingly opposite sounds—soft w's and hard c's—into beautiful, catching verse:
"Once, we walk long grass into weave
pacing stem wrappings
in concentric circling;"
Similarly, she relies on repetition and lists in many of her poems, particularly those done in prose. In Part II's "Morning Call," the poet uses this technique to portray a sense of urgency, as well as to set the scene. The pace fits the section's theme of "Breaking Cover," as well as incorporating the ever important notion of "streaming," both in style and in diction:
"It was morning call streaming some emic encoding, invocation, mood altering,
stilling brought us home in some shared known never faltering despite the bullets
streaming, in spite of ourselves. Stilling for a song, singing."
Perhaps most striking in Hedge Coke's poetry is her political purpose, if only because it is so subtle: the message is clear, though not forceful. Hedge Coke artfully incorporates a cultural message and topical political opinion without sacrificing her artistry or aesthetic. In "Steel," the poet does nothing to hide her meaning or message, her language is still rhythmic and bold:
construction, that morning, this day,
every bean in balance despite horror
in the world."
On the whole, Hedge Coke's collection is concerned with time and the changes it brings. The incorporation of the poet's cultural background makes the message that much more tangible, and raises the stakes while showing readers a largely ignored side of America. Though specific in its setting, the book's emotional center resonates with anyone. Streaming is truly an accomplishment.