A.E. Hines' 'Adam in the Garden' - poetic fluidity

  • by Mark William Norby
  • Tuesday May 7, 2024
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Poet A.E. Hines
Poet A.E. Hines

On the cover of A.E. Hines' "Adam in the Garden," we view a presumed gay white man. However, consistent with the mission of giving voice to "otherized" people— LGBTQ in our case — we can easily suggest that you see a trans white man. We can further imagine viewing a white lesbian or a bisexual individual or stretching our thinking to propose that we picture a different skin color altogether.

For simplicity, we might as well settle on the label "queer." But if you do not have an affinity with the word queer, settle where you're comfortable. Some of us are doing the work to remove labels altogether.

Imagining a different world is precisely what poetry is all about: combining the different alongside the concrete world in which we live; of providing the context and content of the poet's creative work and any creative artist's life.

Poet A.E. Hines  

What I find valuable in Hines' poetry is the opposite of labeling himself or others. His work is a true breath of fresh air in our universality. Not just our sameness but our kinship with human life, our beingness, our essence. In this, we share authentic power.

Hines builds the world of "Adam in the Garden" by beginning with his youth and proceeding through the aging process, proceeding through life. Your life. Anybody's life. Now place yourself within the poem no matter how you or society have identified your individuality:


It was dangerous then,
making love
in a Carolina backyard. First,
the hammock threatened
to flip us to the ground, taking
with it my nerve; then
you gasped at the sudden reach
of my hand, which woke
your fear, but not
our classmates asleep inside.
I spread
a blanket, and we undressed.
Silent. Back to back.
Much like we would have
in the locker room, each man
neatly piling his clothes
in opposing corners. The night
was clear, the sky knitted with stars.
We floated toward each other,
summer astronauts
on our first expedition: at first
clumsy in our experiments, each of us
taking our time as fireflies
circled our naked bodies
like blinking satellites
or distant moons, each of us
edging closer
to discovery we could not
yet name.

"We could not yet name." In the context of imagination, only two words in the poem refer to the gender of the actors: "each man." Remove those two words, and the poem is entirely anonymous. Creative work can venture toward this direction and work more deeply with our perceptive fascination. Taken together with the book's cover, the criticism is accessible and, in what I propose, might even seem necessary.

I was recently asked a question by another (in this case, a straight white male) literary creative: "Haven't we seen enough gay white men on the literary scene?"

It is entirely satisfactory that Hines has his moment in the spotlight as a gay white man, compassionate creative artist, and impactful poet. Hines is so good at navigating an individual's life and growing older, plus the sudden ailments that pop up, in revealing the changes we endure.

He is excellent in carrying the reader with him, through different parts of the world where he has lived, from Portland to Colombia and various parts of the south. He is very fond of enjambment, the continuation of a sentence from one line to the next without any punctuation. Here is a great poem and a strong example of enjambment:

"To My Flirtatious Friend Who Made a Pass at My Husband on Facebook"

You were right to call him beautiful.
When I first saw him, I couldn't stop
staring: those soft hazel eyes framed
by his thin wire spectacles, the fine
toothy scruff of his beard. So yes, horny devil
emoji does feel appropriate. When
I awoke after our first night, the sun up
making love to the room, I was afraid
to open my eyes, the way a drunk fears
being sober, wants to keep dreaming.
When I did, I found no evidence
he'd been there at all, the other side
of my bed so recently his, now crisp
and remade my sleeping hand reaching
like that of the newly widowed
into empty space. Did you write sexy?
Oh yes. Yes indeed: one whiff
that morning of the coffee brewing
downstairs—my god—knowing
he was still here, let me tell you,
my friend, that was sexy.
I wanted him then the way the beans
long to be ground and pressed,
then pummeled by relentless steam.

So, we have both enjambment and an alluringly sexy poem. Placing oneself in any gender, color, or other place upon the LGBTQ spectrum than where one presently lives is within our faculty. In fact, it strengthens our empathy toward others. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is an exciting way to think. It creates a more extensive, more diversified, and more interesting world.

Hines addresses an anxiety disorder, ocular migraines, and family history. He titles one poem "Adam in Another Garden." His poems give us another Eden than the biblical Eden many of us have been taught. The writer's work is concerned with perspective and perception. Hines' poems give a sense of life, of living, of setting us more within the freedom we deserve.

A.E. Hines' 'Adam in the Garden' Charlotte Lit Press, $18.

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