This new, old Issy has also had more exposure to standardized language as she has lived and aged. In my dissertation, I pointed to the irony that much of the humor of Issy’s linguistic play in Finnegans Wake, especially around the “gramma’s grammar” section, can only be appreciated by those with more formal training in grammatical forms than Issy has. Hunter’s chapbook represents a strong effort to resolve this irony. When the speaker inserts extra idiosyncratic full-stops in a sequence such as “The masculinity.’s downfall’s. delusion.” in “Epistemology Involving Mirrors,” she knows what she is doing with emphasis, and with the suggestion that masculinity is a full a though, a full actor and action, in and of itself.
If something is lost in this effort, if an older, more educated Issy is also less joyful, this change does not represent a weakness in Hunter’s prose poems. Rather, it tells us something about the challenges of living in a linguistic world one would resist: the more deliberately one seeks to oppose it, the less playful one can be. As Issy says in the “The Notorious Striking Clock,” “To fall you can’t speak. She is the river lamed.” Your words can’t flow as once they did (just as her mother Anna Livia, as she washes into the sea, no longer flows as rapidly she did coming down the mountains). Joy in usage is sacrificed in the effort to reveal what is arbitrary or violent and allow more freedom for those who remain rule-governed—“How a girl becomes a plurality, an army” as the third part of “The Paradigmatic Plane” concludes itself and the sequence. Issy restrains herself in order to become legion. Poetry, being play within restraints—a kind of ricorso—has the same power in and of itself that she thus claims.