Cobb Institute Poet Laureate

Christina Hutchins

Christina is a poet and scholar of process philosophy and theology. She has also worked as a biochemist, a Congregational (UCC) minister, and for many years taught theology and literary arts at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She lives in Albany, California, where she served as the city’s first poet laureate.

Her poetry collections are Tender the Maker (2015 May Swenson Award, Utah State UP), The Stranger Dissolves (2011), finalist for the Lambda and Audre Lorde Awards, and the chapbooks, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air (2011 Becker Prize) and Collecting Light (1999). Her poems appear widely, including in The Antioch Review, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, The Southern Review, and Women’s Review of Books. Her essays on process theology, queer theory, and poetry appear in volumes by Ashgate, SUNY, and Columbia UP. Awards include The Missouri Review Prize, National Poetry Review Prize, a fellowship to St. Petersburg, Russia, and living in Robert Frost’s home in Franconia, NH, as the Dartmouth Poet in Residence.

Christina holds a BS from University of California at Davis in Biochemistry and Piano Performance, an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, where she delivered the graduation address, and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from the Graduate Theological Union, writing a dissertation on reading and radiant time that draws on Alfred North Whitehead, Judith Butler, and Henri Bergson.

Christina Hutchins - black-white
Tender the Maker - crop

Featured Poem


Among other attributes, it is a cobalt universe
& musical, a quickened universe constituted by its loss.
Its depth, an unbounded aquarium, quivers with stars,
the failure of light to take full purchase of distance.
Each spiral galaxy unspools extra dimensions, a telephone
ringing & ringing through space, unanswered.

When I walked in, he had his head in a cabinet
where Beethoven blasted, exact & immense in tragedy
as in joy. My father was conducting. He’s had a rough
morning, she said, so we turned on his music.
Doors swung wide, his head & shoulders inside the wooden
box, he had loosened the hinges of language.

In the word debacle actuality meets metaphor,
the breaking up of ice in a river’s thaw, blue slabs piled, askew.
His mind was a debacle. I know it is ambition to think the universe,
but it is our host & origin. I have a passport to speak
& wheel around, because I know neither space nor earth
is my possession, & maybe not even this body.

Is having evolved an invitation to destruction?
Do our tools mark superiority when glaciers collapse
& ice crowds the north sea with dull floes in premature demise?
Being undone by loss before death, dementia’s weight
is grief of living through undoings usually reserved
for dying itself & nearly unbearable. He bore that grief.

A sleek crane rises from a seasonal wetland, cobalt edged
with summer lace where ice had piled high.
I can’t give you that.

The fourth movement nears the coda. He leans harder
into the cabinet. From the outside, over his shoulder, I watch.
Intently he points to individual players, & one open hand to the woodwinds,
he nods to the horns. So ambitious, with Beethoven, the physicist
sweeps up orchestra & universe. Drawing an agonizing
sweetness, he coaxes the strings with thick, beckoning fingers.

First appeared in Nimrod International Journal
(Vol 65, No 1, Fall/Winter 2021)