Hunger Moon: Poems by Deborah Banks

The planet is imperilled,
grasping at our attention
and failing forever.

The above passage is taken from “This Is How We Love” a poem in the new Deborah Banks’ collection Hunger Moon. This particular poem, about halfway into the collection, sums up the type of poet Ms. Banks is. While not ignorant of what is transpiring in the world, geopolitically, environmentally or otherwise, she turns to the natural world around her for solace and grounding. In this particular poem, her mother calls her from Quebec to look at the moon.

My mother calls from Quebec
to tell me to look at the moon.

Isn't she my mom?

Isn't she why I look up and down:
sky, moon, clouds, planet, tree, spider, snake?

She asks me to stay attentive
as the world falls apart
while the world is screen-glued
addicted to the fear of missing out.

After reading Hunger Moon, I came to realize that the poet doesn’t miss much in the natural world that surrounds her in rural Nova Scotia, a trait that has clearly been passed on from mother to daughter.

As one would expect, the moon figures prominently, from the opening titular poem to the last one, “Full Moon”.

Have you ever stood still
long enough to watch
the full moon rise up
between tree branches?
I mean, really stood still 
an attended to
its faithful progression?

This entreaty by the poet to ‘really stand still’ is emphasized throughout Hunger Moon, and not just on the celestial. There is a universe of activity going on all around us: bees, spiders, tadpoles, seeds, buds on a tree, a deer’s overnight nest in the snow, and so on. She takes us through the seasons, through rainstorms (“Hurricane Arthur”) and frozen lakes (“the damn beautiful ache of it all”) to a summer’s heatwave that takes the poet and her friends to the beach where “the cool relief of the sea calls us”.

It is easy to get caught up in the awe Ms. Banks feels for the natural world and the disdain for the outside world’s insistence in its inserting itself unbidden in her daily life, for there is no joy in that.

Is it rare to find a non-Indigenous person so connected to the land as Ms. Banks is? Perhaps, perhaps not. I read once that we settlers/occupiers have no connection to this land (or any land) since we are not from this place, so it is difficult for us to relate to the fragility and interconnectedness of it all. Reading the type of poetry that Deborah Banks writes can help us along the road to reconciliation, to others and to this earth. I conclude this review with a quote from “Delivery”:

The world doesn't know what to be anymore
but here, just now
we understand the simplest deeds
the regeneration of thought that comes with kindness.

Deborah Banks was born and raised in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. She has taught in the rural regions of Quebec, Northern Quebec and Montreal. She now resides in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, in a house she has slowly brought back to life over 20 years. Her work has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly and Matrix. She was selected as one of the winners of Poetry in Motion for 2021. This is her second book of poetry.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pottersfield Press (April 30 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 80 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989725856
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989725856

James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.