refreshing poetry, engaged poetry

First, a terrible loser with NaPoWriMo this year, then an even worse loser with NaPoReMo this year. Although I have actually been reading the two collections I said I would read in June, just not writing about them.

Here, just a couple of lines about Tony Hoagland’s What Narcissm Means To Me.  So much of today’s poetry offerings focus on the look and feel of the grain of dust on top of the grain of coffee — real micro-stuff. And yes, I know, from the particular to the general, to the universe through the detail, etc, but one doesn’t realize how much one is squinting and frowning at all the detail and the micro-ness — how much squinting becomes a fact of reading poetry. That is, until one reads poetry that is much wider and bigger — (not sure I should not say, more generous, more unafraid), such as Hoagland’s work in this volume.

Which doesn’t mean he launches off into orbits of abstraction and airy formlessness that make you squint even more. On the contrary.

Just found this interview with him online, where he says:

There was a time when I looked at a scene and saw a man and a woman kissing. Now I am aware that the man has a credit card in his pocket and that just behind the woman a beer commercial is on the tv, interrupting war coverage

Well, yes — engaged poetry, a topic I have bleated on about here in some detail in the past. Here and here and here, for example.

Hoagland doesn’t abandon detail, he employs it to convey a wider spectrum of vision.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

5 thoughts on “refreshing poetry, engaged poetry”

  1. Yes, what was it ABJ wrote on my blog once: “Description makes nothing happen” – words along those lines. And much of poetry’s fascination with the micro-detail does indeed make nothing happen. It’s when description becomes part of what’s really happening that it brings a poem alive.

    I know Yeats got there long before me on this.

  2. Hoagland is one of my very favorites. His Donkey Gospel is quite good, too.

    In addition to his awareness of the details behind the big picture, I like that he says things we should be saying out loud, but are afraid to.

    I have a huge, sloppy poetry crush on him.

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