Review: Cindy Hunter Morgan’s Harborless

After reading Cindy Hunter Morgan’s stunning book of poetry dedicated to the history of sunken Great Lakes freighters, it’s surprising that I reached adulthood never caring much about these boats. While I grew up on Lake Huron and spent hours in my Grandparent’s living room overlooking the St. Clair River, these behemoths simply slid by without much comment, other than a quick muttering about their color or length.

But thankfully, Harborless not only takes us directly into shipwrecks so we can experience them in unexpected ways, but also invites us into the deeper sensation of the people who lived and lost their lives there.

Hunter Morgan splits the book into sections such as Scent Theory, Sound Theory, Dream Theory in order to delve into different facets of the history, with keen attention that transforms historical abstraction into guttural beauty.

One of my favorite poems, “Sydney E. Smith Jr., 1972,” imagines the psychological aftershock of a wreck that took place near the Blue Water Bridge, in my hometown.

Hunter Morgan brilliantly puts us into the mind of the driver who was responsible for the crash, and she takes us to the barber seat a few weeks later, where “he heard the barber speak of guilt/ as though it were an insect.”

Hunter Morgan then fleshes out the survivor’s guilt in a way that only a poem can do: “He thought everything was sinkable,/ and never heard the music/ of what was still afloat.”