Four Way Books
The Radiant
by Cynthia Huntington

Winner of the
2001 Levis Poetry Prize
selected by Susan Mitchell

ISBN: 1-884800-49-1
paper, 60 pages, $14.95



This is a remarkable book that will reward repeated readings. It is also a book of awful things— sickness and suffering and betrayal. ‘We feel so much / and then we die’— these lines, succinct and matter-of-fact in their statement of life's mystery, shook me to attention and drew me into Huntington's world. This is not a book for the faint of heart or for those in search of glib consolations. This is a book about human spirit and intelligence wrestling with the terrible, struggling not to be broken, admitting ‘I am that stuff that can be destroyed,’ yet through that very admission becoming, at least for this reader, ‘the stuff that cannot be destroyed.’ Disturbing, even harrowing, these poems are also ravishingly beautiful and deeply felt meditations on the world, meditations enacted by a poet who is highly intelligent and emotionally complex, equally capable of detachment and intensity. Reading The Radiant I was taken to a place I have encountered in Ovid and Euripides, a place where the human is overcome by powers it cannot control, powers that relentlessly transform it into animals and trees and strange insects—or tear it to pieces. In Huntington's book, this is ‘a place beyond hope.’ But paradoxically, it is in this place—or from it—we see the radiance that gives the book its title, the shining that Huntington's refusal to look away finally forces from the world. No, I don't come back to this book for comfort, I return to it to feel alive.

—Susan Mitchell