by Cynthia Huntington
Southern Illinois University Press, 2024
Paper: 978-0-8093-3930-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3931-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3558.U517
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54


New collection from National Book Award finalist

Civil twilight is the astronomical term for the minutes just before sunrise and just after sunset. If one took a snapshot, it would be impossible to tell whether the light was increasing or diminishing. The poems in Civil Twilight arise in this liminal space. With luminous precision, Cynthia Huntington examines the civil twilight we live in now, unsure of whether the darkness is closing in or whether the light is about to break.

Here the poet is both skeptic and seeker, for any hope worth discovering needs to withstand the facts at hand. Is everything getting worse, or are things about to improve? Or is this the way things have always been, both hopeful and terrifying, and it is our questions that need to change? In part one, the speaker strives for balance by maintaining light and warmth in a cold season. In part two, American scenes of construction and destruction are set beside moments from history: Rome, the British Empire, and American immigration. Part three enfolds questions of history and power within winter scenes and the artist’s imagination. In part four, the speaker looks back and admits answers remain elusive, yet points to the new ways of thinking and feeling about survival that have resulted from the work. And here, the half-light shifts. In a world teetering on the edge of collapse, Civil Twilight wrestles hard-won hope from disquiet, coming to rest in what is. 

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