How You Walk Alone in the Dark
by Erin Block
Paperback, 90 pp
We Crack Our Teeth Against Time
a review of Erin Block's How You Walk Alone in the Dark
by David Anthony Martin
A life of intimacy with nature and wildlife from a hunter who has a heart and knows the price of
taking wild game. In these poems Erin Block writes from her cabin in Colorado, from where she also hunts, fishes, forages, and gardens. When it comes to hunting, she honors the process— the hunt and the kill — “someone dying for another, in some way” and so in her hands the hunt remains a sacred human tradition tied to her place and the other beings she shares it
The poet knows this kinship; the life, struggle, fears, and challenges wild game face—as the very same mirrors her own. Not only “Find food, find water, / stay dry and warm if you can” but also finding that peace and clarity of mind that makes us “want to stick around / one day more.” How we struggle “to keep the weight of the world / so heavy on your bones” as we navigate the “long shadows we inherit / like land if you’re lucky; madness if not.” How we “crack our teeth against time” trying to make more memories, even in what may be humanity's last days, “for the people who will be left, / who’ll remember us trying to not let go.”
In How You Walk Alone in the Dark we see expressed the idea of being human as being on equal footing with being an other-than-human being. Interconnection. And there are other equalizations in these poems, such as when she says that she doesn’t arrange the bills in her wallet all facing the same way “because maybe it’s good for men to have to look at each other / face to face.” Children, relationships, people make appearances here as well, “I can tell which side you’re on / by how you walk alone in the dark.”
This collection holds reverence and wonder for the life lived close to nature, dependent on it. The life of a poet waiting for the first bear paw print in snow, putting out bird feeders each morning like calls to prayer, and anticipating Spring where she waits “to see ball cactus bloom pink.” As well, there is an expressed sadness at what is occurring in the natural world at this time in history, and the effects it has on those tied intimately to it, and what they are all facing together.
HOW YOU WALK ALONE IN THE DARK
Erin Block is a skillful hunter, sharp-eyed gatherer, and brilliant writer searching the wilderness and returning with poems that guide us closer to the “life of the invisible.” Her delicate, nuanced attention to nature places us in “animal mode,” revealing “how we talk to each other” and “how to move through the world unseen” in order to reconnect with it. This book is a wondrous offering.
—Michael Garrigan, author of River, Amen and Robbing the Pillars
This book is a love-worn, half-feral gift full of surprise and metaphor. We are where we live and how we live, and these poems are the necessary synthesis to see clearly. She’s asking who we are and what we do with “the heartache we inherit/ born here east of Eden,” and in poems clear-eyed and sharply sentimental she answers: “skin your rabbit at sunrise/and carry his death on your back like childhood."
—Gillian Wigmore, author of Night Watch, Glory, Grayling, Dirt of Ages, Soft Geography,
“How does anyone survive / the hunger of someone else,” Erin Block asks in her debut poetry collection, and her answer, the poems themselves, are an assertion of that survival, that deep craving for life amidst unrelenting, inevitable loss. With the lens of both hermit and hunter, Block writes tight up against the rawness of the world. These poems are elegant and elemental, with a sinewy lyricism. Block’s poems are illuminating, fresh, deft, compassionate. How You Walk Alone in the Dark is one of the most moving poetry collections I have read in years.”
—Corrie Williamson, author of The River Where You Forgot My Name and Sweet Husk
“In How You Walk Alone in the Dark, Erin Block scopes in on where human privilege edges the hunt. She carefully field dresses the alluring decadence of blood lust, of marrow suck, of the hunt’s grammatology. "
—Tony Burfield, author of Sawhorse and Seeking the Button Rock Hermit
"In How You Walk Alone in the Dark, Erin Block wrestles with loss, loneliness, and remorse—darkness, really, in its myriad forms—and finds a way to walk through it because of the beauty she finds around her, despite the pain, in the chickadee who can only use one leg, the green-dappled backs of cutthroat trout—in language, itself. This is an exceptional poetry collection."
—Sage Marshall, editor for Field & Stream
Erin Block lives in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and works for the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries. Her writing has been published in CutBank Literary Journal, The Rumpus, Guernica, and Gray's Sporting Journal, among others. She is the author of two non-fiction books, The View from Coal Creek (Whitefish Press, 2013) and By a Thread (Whitefish Press, 2016). How You Walk Alone in the Dark is her first collection of poetry.