‘Constellations’ Connects Words to Create New Worlds Within its Poems; In her debut poetry collection, Colby College student Esther Mathieu addresses mental health and the tension between separateness and connection.
Constellations are our way of linking stars so that they become something familiar, so that we can view them as images and use them as metaphor. Constellations are to stars what poems are to words. Esther Mathieu, in “Constellations,” her debut collection of poetry, builds staircases of words that lead back and forth between earth and sky, exploring both, and a life in the space between the two.
Mathieu is a student at Colby College, graduating in 2017. She was raised in Queens, and her poems skip between the urban landscape of her home and the distinctive features of Maine – “long evening archipelagos” and “The moon…/shining in airborne water…” Or, at least this reader imagines Maine.
This is a theme in Mathieu’s collection: two distinct places, ideas, words, getting linked and growing together, becoming something new. There is New York and Maine, bridged by Mathieu herself. There is the sea and the sky: “What is the sea but one more greatness of heaven?/What are we but wondering and wandering/between these two majesties, unknowing/always?” There is rootlessness and blooming, love and weariness, fear and attraction: “I fear oblivion like a snail fears salt/but all the same it’s something I could sink into.”
And then there are her hyphens, liberally used to create hyper-modifiers. There are “ankle-deep boundaries,” “far-off glowings” and “ought-to-bes.” In just one poem, “Beachbound Yearning of Hero and Sea,” she writes about “many half-utterances,” “half-formations of fluttered motion,” “half-dreamed spires,” and “half-squalid near-histories half-remembered.” With her arrangement of both words and ideas, Mathieu explores the tension and creativity present in dualities.
She notices all of the places where the whole becomes pieces and pays particular attention to the different kinds of separateness and connection: grafted, “breaking into fractures and fragments,” stitched, seams, “edges creased and torn.”
She writes, “and if the wind can pick up pieces of me so joyfully/I may as well let it take the ones I don’t want.”
Mathieu plays with words, looking for homographs and homophones. They create levity amidst serious, sometimes dark subjects. In the acknowledgments, Mathieu thanks family, friends and teachers. She also names her gratitude for her therapist, psychiatrist and school counselor. She is obviously attentive to the life of the mind, to connection and to loneliness.
In an interview with “Yes, Poetry,” she said, “I am also obsessed with finding ways to articulate the truth about living as a young person with mental health issues today – trying to find the ways to say what it feels like inside of depression and anxiety, trying to tell other people, but also trying to tell myself.”
Mathieu does tell us this, but also more. She has created small but intricate worlds within each poem that, when connected, become patterns of truth. In “Dreaming” Mathieu describes exactly what she has created with this first collection: “I want to have hands/that smell like bread dough and ink from all the things I’ve made/…and use my hands to craft small eternities.”
Review by Heidi Sistare
Young Writer In a New Shop
Hunt & Light, a poetry publisher out of East Hampton and Brooklyn, is dedicated to advancing the work of young poets. This will be manifested in the appearance of one Esther Mathieu at Harbor Books, the still-new shop on Main Street in Sag Harbor. She hails from Queens and is young enough to be studying at Colby College in Maine.
And speaking of newness, her debut collection, “Constellations,” is just the second published by Hunt & Light. The outfit’s founder is Lucas Hunt, late of Springs, whose poems and reviews have appeared in these pages previously. Below is a selection from “Constellations.”
I want to have hands
that smell like bread dough and ink from all the things I've made
while the sun is still rising
over warm cups of tea,
water boiled in a bright-colored kettle
and poured into a mug on an old wood table.
I think if I typed on a red typewriter
and lived in a house full of noise I could watch quietly
I would be different.
But probably, all I really want
is to smell like morning,
and wear my hair in a sea-salted braid,
and use my hands to craft small eternities.
Hunt & Light Launches New Poetry Collection in Sag Harbor
The art of poetry remains alive and well in the world, thanks in large part to folks like Hamptons Gentleman Poet Lucas Hunt, who is continuing to create new books under his Hunt & Light imprint. This Saturday, August 15, Hunt is hosting a launch party for his newest poet, Esther Mathieu, and her book Constellations from 5–6:30 p.m. at Harbor Books in Sag Harbor.
Mathieu’s 75-page volume is Hunt & Light’s second collection of poetry and designed quite similarly to the publisher’s first book of poems, *****Original Message***** by Matthew Frazier, released in 2013. The two collections look quite handsome on the bookshelf together, but more than that, they prove poetry is still generating enough interest to warrant the creation of physical books, not just ebooks and online blogs.
This is especially true with Constellations, the product of a successful Hunt & Light Kickstarter campaign, which earned $6,545 in pledges—exceeding its $5,000 goal by more than $1,500. The campaign ended on April 30 and Hunt and his team quickly went to work editing and designing the book.
“Constellations by Esther Mathieu is a breathtakingly beautiful collection of poetry that positively captures the essence of language in verse,” Hunt says. “The lyrical storytelling is rich, rhythmic, transcendental in particular, and evokes spiritual dimensions. Mathieu’s voice is profoundly moving, and captures the human desire to ascend from concrete things to the abstract, with the reasoned levity of a mature poet in truthful, soothing tones,” he adds. “Never monotonous, always mellifluous, poems like ‘The Light We Do Not Speak Of’ and ‘What Bright New Fires Will Light the Night’ are expansive soundings of familiar subjects, composed with remarkable depth of emotion,” Hunt continues, describing the book and revealing his own penchant for the poetic (only the Gentleman Poet digs up words like “mellifluous”). “And lines like, ‘it hurt thinking of how much it hurt thinking of you,’ economically say what needs to be said about love, loss and pain.”
Mathieu, who was born in Manhattan and grew up in Queens, currently attends Colby College in Maine where she studies environmental planning, media and design. Her poetry has appeared in Troubadour, The Cambridge Tradition and Young Poets Speak Out. Constellations is Mathieu’s first poetry collection.
After mostly living in the Hamptons for the last decade, and basing Hunt & Light out of East Hampton, Hunt is now spending more time in New York City, where he’s started his own literary agency with a PR company. “We are so happy to publish Esther, as she is a debut poet…and just a tremendously romantic and accessible poet, as well as a genius young woman,” he says of Mathieu and Constellations. Hunt created Hunt & Light with the mission to share the voices of new, inventive and original poets who “inspire with possibility.”
The Status is Quo by Matthew Daddona
“Matthew Frazier’s opening is a mockery, a joke prodding the intricacies of technology and the banality of our more immediate surroundings, which are two sides of the same coin. Taking this as preamble, Frazier sweeps through poems about daily life but cuts them with surreal, dispatched imagery… Here, nature odes, like one to Hurricane Irene’s impending danger, offset tragedy by way of relaying its sacred stillness and eventual proximity to humankind… We are thus confronted with the “other in Frazier’s *****Original Message*****, like a twin brother who can’t be trusted, and with themes of storms, fantasy football, sex, and marginalized romance, Frazier gives us plenty to ruminate upon… The prose, which is clean restrained, and colloquial, is a natural barrier when considering how vast his themes stretch. Frazier understands the multifarious skins these messages live in, and as if to warn us, he keeps the reader at bay, perhaps insisting that the world can still be simple, and yes, it will receive us.”
A Review of *****Original Message***** by Peter Auguerot
“…a representation of new definitions words have taken on in the past two decades or so…Matthew Frazier writes about everything that hasn’t changed at all: anxiety, obsession, regret. Ambitiously, Frazier aims to write poetry for out modern times- including, even, references to tech and geek culture…often hits a graceful note…startling in its simple beauty. When these moments swoop in, they manage to lift me out of my chair. The book lingers on the new mundane, and every movement the poetry makes is accessible and immediate…when it isn’t even trying, it really can move.”
Lucas Hunt: The Hamptons’ Gentleman Poet by Oliver Peterson
"It takes a brave soul to publish poetry in this world where tweets and status updates have overshadowed more substantial literary efforts, where a book won’t sell without a celebrity name or an accompanying film franchise. It takes a bolder person to publish poetry and nothing else—even someone heroic, or insane.
This is the burden Springs resident Lucas Hunt must bear, and it’s no surprise he seems a bit mad, in his own genteel way. But this is what it takes to launch a poetry imprint in 2013. Hunt, 36, believes in the power of poetry clearly, resolutely and without trepidation. He lives it, embodies it and nothing will stop him from spreading the love.
Just in time for National Poetry Month, on Saturday, April 20, Hunt’s eponymous imprint Hunt & Light is releasing its first book, Original Message, and introducing its first poet, Matthew Frazier, to the world. Appropriately, the event is taking place at Poet’s House, a 50,000-volume poetry library and center in Manhattan.
“We’re launching poets, not just books of poetry,” Hunt said, noting that following the release, he will spend the next year promoting Frazier,Original Message and, of course, the art of poetry at various schools, organizations and literary events. After 12 months, Hunt & Light will launch its second young poet and the mission will continue like this for each year to follow.
“I think the literary arts are actually on the rise,” Hunt said, refuting the notion that literature is suffering in America. Whether the new publisher is misguided remains to be seen, but his passion is infectious. “We are in a national state of cultural redefinition, and people are actively searching for new ways to identify with one another on more meaningful levels,” Hunt explained. “Poetry and literature remain powerful tools in our existential battles for a more truthful awareness of what it means to be alive today in America,” he mused, adding, “They provide a brilliant form of collective understanding, through the heartfelt media of individual expression. Poetry and literature remain limitless.”
Hunt, an Iowa native who graduated from the Southampton College MFA program, lives in a world of books and words. He’s the kind of man one could imagine doesn’t own a television, the guy who’d be stumped by references to the Real Housewives or Lindsay Lohan’s latest rehab announcement. Hunt works as an agent for Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency in East Hampton by day and spends his nights and weekends attending readings, setting up events and, hopefully, writing his own well-regarded poems.
He has published two volumes poetry, Lives and Light on the Concrete, and presents himself as a man of taste and finery, someone who rarely spouts a gruff word and wouldn’t be caught dead in sweatpants. Not ever. Hunt wears his hair well quaffed and his suits well pressed. He has a certain quirky charisma and stands a slim and handsome figure. The perfection of it all could appear a pretentious affectation or a put-on, but Hunt is as earnest as a well-written sonnet. He’s a meticulous eccentric, a rare bird without artifice, only unique and unusual plumage.
Without a sense of irony, Hunt calls himself the model for the “gentleman poet,” an aesthetic he means to promote with Hunt & Light. “This is just the beginning of what we call the rebirth of the gentleman poet,” he explained, noting, “Hunt & Light aims to create a limited line of high-end men’s fashion items. We are collaborating with a few of our favorite designers to produce simple yet sophisticated cufflinks, bow ties, and French cuff shirts, all tastefully featuring our logo Foxy, a mythical fox with wings who is pursued by the hunt, yet, by the grace of poetry, becomes light and escapes it.”
Through innovative and imaginative ideas like this, Hunt says Hunt & Light will eventually be a success, which could simply mean breaking even, publishing great books and promoting the art of poetry.
As Hunt describes it, “The vision for Hunt & Light comes from a desire to make beautiful books that will stimulate imagination. Poetry is a timeless art form, and our objective is to hand-publish quality collections with simplicity and style. Our authors’ work is original, inventive, and most of all, demonstrates a strong passion for life. The human voice is an ancient tool, powerful in its ability to transmit an experience through the ages.”
Hunt & Light is still seeking its next poet, who must be someone with lyrical writing, world consciousness and passion, the publisher said. “They have to be right.”"