Catherine Barnett’s tragicomic third collection, Human Hours, shuttles between a Whitmanian embrace of others and a kind of rapacious solitude. Barnett speaks from the middle of hope and confusion, carrying philosophy into the everyday.
Barnett defies traditional poetics, dabbling with the experimental, especially with the Accursed Questions series throughout the book—there are four. Each prosaic poem presents a series of statements to frame the poet’s current mindset (hour of being human) ... The Accursed Questions exemplify the collection—talking to oneself, with polarizing senses of disbelief and narcissism ... Barnett’s poetry draws its strength from images. Her images are clear and stark. Proper nouns and accurate references are used to prove meaning. Barnett also takes risks by challenging reader knowledge of literature and philosophy. Human Hours leaves us thinking, thinking within all hours of life.
Catherine Barnett’s newest collection of poems, Human Hours, invites readers into the impermanence of time and the human desire to try and capture the hours that continually slip away from us. Our guide is a speaker who embraces the ache and hilarity of life found in unexpected moments ... The book is broken into four sections, each beginning with a poem entitled Accursed Questions ... As Barnett unfolds for readers the hours of a particular human life, she simultaneously asks readers to examine their own hours. Barnett’s style is conversational, convivial, an invitation to enter the life of a speaker who must say goodbye often as the hours of her life pass her by.
... [Barnett] examines both small moments and current events, recalling lessons learned from her father, experiences with her son and her own consternation about living in a democracy with a violent legacy.The pieces, which range in tone from darkly comic to deeply distressing, present some dour scenarios, nudging readers to consider how they spend their lives.