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Tony Hoagland’s New Book

As a devotee of Tony Hoagland, I am very happy that he has a new book out, (Tattered Cover better have it in stock, or I will be peeved!). And what I most love about Hoagland are the things that Joel Brouwer, in the New York Times Book Review, seems to diss on.

So Hoagland doesn’t rhyme, or write in a quantifiable cadence. He is, seemingly, a student of W.C. Williams “variable foot”–which imitates real, American, speeech. Which makes his poems read like the dramatic monologues from a weird kind of thinking Mr. Everyman. His speaker is the kind of guy who will read Baudelaire and watch the SuperBowl, perhaps even in the same day.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

–MJH

P.S. For what it’s worth, I must say here that Hoagland’s earlier book of poetry has the best title ever: What Narcissism Means to Me.

3 comments on “Tony Hoagland’s New Book

  1. Chris
    February 8, 2010

    Well, I like Hoagland’s work, too. I don’t disagree with all of Brouwer’s assessments, but what can we finally say about critics whose main contribution seems to be justifying their own existence? I know the best critics serve a necessary role, like dung beetles. Where would we be without them?

    Is Brouwer merely a cypher? After all, he’s cites, as if we all agree, a version of Plato’s Rational Myth, an ancient attack on poetry as “delusive”—in other words, morally suspect and composed of lies. Therefore, we have Plato, and his descendant literary critics, to lead us to truth and moral rectitude. Oye.

    I don’t buy Plato’s argument. Never have. Hoagland is probing American culture for new messages and his poems, like those of any poet working this seam, are message back to those who read. If you don’t like the poems, leave them to those who do.

    I’m one of those. Give me a good book of poems for nourishment. Plato and Brouwer can huddle in the cave and congratulate themselves on how clever and upright and correct they are. I’ll be refreshed, meanwhile, by voices like Hoagland’s.

  2. andreadupree
    February 9, 2010

    Ransick, ransick, ransick! (That’s meant to be a chant, like in a sports arena.) I love it when something fires you up.

    As someone who seems to be naturally attracted to the poetry that invites in the less esoteric set (i.e., the story types), I find myself often at odds with the notion of what makes poetry “poetic.” (Brouwer calls Hoagland “ruthlessly unpoetic.”) So, does that mean I like ruthlessly unpoetic poetry? Somewhat out of this question, we’re putting together a salon for Lit Fest on the “construction of taste” (only with a better title) in which fisticuffs come out at the notion of who/what/why determines “good” writing. Is unpoetic poetry still good? If Hoagland’s any indicator, I’d say so… but I’m just a hick story writer from New Mexico.

  3. Lynn
    February 9, 2010

    What was good about Brouwer’s review is that he puts a finger on what he believes is Hoagland’s low points while still appreciating him. (i.e. not the total trash review)

    I’m sorry, but the age of good criticism in poetry has passed and how the heck did Tony get 2 book reviews in NYT both posted in the same day?!!!, Dwight Garner’s which opens “There are 15 or 20 better poets in America than Tony Hoagland, but few deliver more pure pleasure.”
    (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/books/05book.html)

    I do hope those 15 or 20 poets have been reviewed intelligently in NYT pages.

    As a former student of Hoagland’s, I read reviews of his books with interest. Tony is an excellent teacher and an insightful essayist, but so often he gets the total pass from reviewers. That is why Brouwer’s reviewer adds to Andrea’s cultivation of taste as does Hoagland’s own essays. When reviewers turn to the other side of rah-rah it helps readers dig in to what they do and do not like.

    Read widely, writers–even authors you think you will not like. That is something I think we can all agree on.

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2010 by in Complaint, The Scoop.

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