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House of Lords and Commons: Poems

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A stunning collection that traverses the borders of culture and time, from the 2011 winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award

In House of Lords and Commons, the revelatory and vital new collection of poems from the winner of the 2013 Whiting Writers' Award in poetry, Ishion Hutchinson returns to the difficult beauty of the Jamaican landscape with remarkable lyric precision. H
Hardcover, 77 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I can tell this is excellent and brilliantly composed poetry but I simply didn't connect to the work. I didn't feel smart enough to understand any of the poems. ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
For a volume that demands multiple readings and much patience to absorb, Hutchinson's oftentimes abstruse poems, nonetheless, compulsively draw you back to the challenge of understanding their complexity. His verses are densely constructed with rich and beautiful language, and when you begin to piece together the puzzle of his vision, the message can be both endearing and haunting. At their core, many of the poems attest to anguish from Hutchinson's personal past and over the condition of his ho ...more
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: caribbean, jamaica, poetry
I accidentally finished it. *starts over*
Pamela Laskin
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading wonderful poetry book, HOUSE OF LORDS AND COMMONS by Ishion Hutchinson, born in Jamaica, and an assistant professor at Cornell University. Talk about language that slices through the skin; his diction is stark, challenging, dark, haunting, lyrical, and lovely. I love his rage against politics, his poignant understanding of tenderness and fatherhood. There is wonderful irony and edgy violence, but his authenticity makes this an amazingly beautiful book. A must read!
Andy Oram
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
For these poems, the author painstakingly assembled memories of places he has grown up, lived in, and traveled to, along with acerbic political and social observations and incredibly rich metaphor. "Don't get too hung up on the terms," as he says in "A March." I didn't untangle every phrase, but I found much of the book moving, and had to sit quietly for a while after the end. Most effective to me was a poem late in the book where Hutchinson softens his modernist style for a more prose-poem appr ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is Hutchinson’s second collection. I will be right back. Have to go get his first collection, Far District, because this is one talented young poet. (Back. Got it.) Hutchinson is Jamaica born and raised but a resident of the United States since 2006. House of Lords and Commons deservedly won the National Book Critics award for poetry in a year when great poetry seems to be as ample as apples in a blessed autumn harvest. (When you compare short lists of those who give out national poetry pri ...more
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started this in 2016.
Joan Colby
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, often devastating poems like the elegy in five parts: October’s Levant, reveal Hutchinson as a poet of realized promise. His imagery evokes the islands of the Caribbean
“October, inconsolable, the asphalt
Bordering the seagrass, warm and silver
In the blazing afternoon, so I know
I am alive and you are not.”

There are poems that confront inequality
“the abomination
Opulence to squalor, worsening never the inverse” (The Difference)

Hutchinson knows how to end a poem memorably
“the blue water wh
The March

Lesson of the day: Syria and Styria.
For Syria, read: His conquering banner shook from Syria.
And for Styria: Look at this harp of  blood, mapping.

Now I am tuned. I am going to go above
my voice for the sake of the forest shaken
on the bitumen. You can see stars in the skulls,

winking, synapses, intermittent, on edge
of shriek — perhaps a cluster of fir, birches? — 
Anyways. Don’t get too hung up

on the terms; they have entropy
in common, bad for the public weal,
those obtuse centurions in the
Craig Werner
There's enough here to keep me interested in Hutchinson's development, but the collection didn't quite come together for me. There are echoes of many other Caribbean writers--the contrast between the tropics and the US North that extends back at least to Claude McKay--the sense of a conflicted history embedded in family relationships. Hutchinson mixes in some interesting cross-references between the European-American and Afro-Caribbean traditions, notably in "Sibelius and Marley." Both "After th ...more
Micah Winters
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Hutchinson's poems dance through immense fields of language and allusion, vibrating with intellectual prowess. At times, the fierce intensity of their composition tips them into overwriting or distanced inscrutability; it took me a good while to "get" their style, to adapt to the the rhythms of this collection. But the closer (and slower) I looked, the more frequently my experience shifted from disengagement to astonishment. The moments of mastery here make the whole collection worth it: "Histor ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is difficult to summarize all that Ishion Hutchinson reveals and draws out of you as a reader. While much of this volume conjures Jamaica and British history, there are brilliant excursions such as:
"That red bicycle left in an alley near the Ponte Vecchio,/ I claim; I claim its elongated shadow, ship crested on/ stacked crates; I claim the sour-mouth Arno and the stone/ arch bending sunlight on vanished medieval fairs;/ but mostly I claim this two-wheel chariot vetching/ on the wall, its sick
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ishion Hutchinson’s ‘House of Lords and Commons’ made me break my de facto rule of not buying Faber poetry in hardback (it upsets the unity of my poetry shelf) and I’m kind of glad it did. This is on the whole a masterful collection, full of distinct poems that flow discretely from one to the next, so that you never question their cohesion until you discern the distance from start to finish. Mostly it’s the unexpected expressions and controlled pace that makes these poems readable yet jarring, a ...more
Jee Koh
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I told NJ that I was writing a series of poems in the voice of a Jamaican transplant to America, she recommended Ishion Hutchinson's House of Lords and Commons, and Safiya Sinclair's Cannibal. The Hutchinson is marvelous, a lyricism that is always surprising, precise, and intelligent. I had to read it twice to understand what he is saying, but I wanted to read it a second time, and probably a third, because it was so musical. There is so little apology in it. ...more
Jacob Lehman
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I don't know if I'm not broadly read enough to fully appreciate this, but it was a little too obscure in a lot of places for my taste. That said, I loved the "Night autobiographies of Leopold Dice" and found some very cool phrases throughout the work. Considering my fondness for crossword puzzles, it's maybe surprising that I don't really care for poems where I feel like I'm guessing at the subject/meaning a lot. ...more
Apr 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A book I know I'll revisit many times! A new favorite poet. A splendid mix of dramatic monologue, syntactic experiment, and just beautifully dense imagery. I never know where a sentence will end, nor indeed is it always easy to tell when it has - punctuation often seems to be there to mark breath, rather than the beginning or end of an idea. Each poem is a compact, self-contained world - it took me a while to get through these because a single poem could fill me up for days! ...more
Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first read Hutchinson in The Happy Reader. His essay about reading Treasure Island as a child (on an island) was beautiful. Then I heard him read from this book on the Shakespeare and Company podcast. Then I read this. I think if I'd come to the book without that preparation, it wouldn't have made such an impression. Poetry is meant to be listened to, I'm convinced! ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
a voice without
force to crack the terra-cotta quiet, steadily
erect between two flailing lives; memory
and this, the present, advancing only down


There's some good stuff in this collection, drowning in everything else.
Shanique Edwards
One of the more dense poetry collections I've read. I'd appreciate the mastery of Hutchinson's poetry much more if I could place the numerous literary/classics references in the poems. I kept getting the sense that I was reading something rich and beautiful, but I couldn't quite grasp it. ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Borderline impenetrable. I could get glimpses, but the larger structures usually escaped me. When I got to The Ark, I went back and started fresh as I think that was the easiest to lock in to, the entry point for hearing him in his expressive mode.
Mike Hammer
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A lyrical collection of superb words and good rhythms, but the poems are a bit dense at points and not as straightforward as they could be. Some good lines and feelings tho.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Hutchinson's lyrics seemed dissonant to me. I couldn't pick up the flow or the music. I'll have to give his work another try. ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting mixture of vernacular voice and traditional heightened poetic language.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very talented young poet
Prince Jhonny
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great mix of Walcottian lyrical storytelling with an immersive sense of place and cerebral explorations.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With the caveat that I think I will need to read this book at least ten more times to even begin to grapple with its technical dexterity, I’m in awe of the powerful language.
John White
Three and a half
Ally Ang
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Technically stunning poems but I feel like I‘m not smart enough to understand them
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful language, but it seems to be missing something that would bring it to a boil, so to speak.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting collection of poems. Most of them require more mental attention than I can devote to them right now, but it's a collection that you could read many, many times and never truly understand everything. I loved how you could feel his background through the poems. Vividly written. ...more
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Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of the poetry collections, Far District: Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2010) and House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). He teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University and is a contributing editor to the literary journals The Common and Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art.

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