Posts Tagged ‘Tony Hoagland’

Culture

January 10, 2015

2014 Best American Poetry

 

How to Read a Poem?

(You may need help.)

 The current state of Poetry is that there are a spate of aspirants and a dearth of audience.  There is also a spate of hierarchy and a dearth of quality.  You needn’t read much further to deduce this latter than the current “Best American Poetry 2014”.  I’m two thirds the way through my reading of it, and I’ve come across four poems I’d read again, none especially timeless, and yet, nearly to a person their bios detail honors, awards, recipientships, publications, fellowships, and prestigious academic positions up the yin yang.  The introductions and bios run for pages and pages.  Topically, the poems run the same playlist as People Magazine, Facebook and the tabloids.

So.  Here we have me, just one person – some tiny little non-entity, who writes poetry with some small success with a nearly non-existent audience, from a fly-over state, – versus, them, who apparently write poetry with great success and a virtually non-existent audience also!  And I find them seriously lame.  But who is to know?

In many ways the situation of Poetry has parallels with the situation of Jazz.  Each suffers a dearth of (earthly) success, but a spate of aspirants.  And the reaction of the general public, to each, is to toss up their hands.  However, each, as the years pass, spawn their aspirants and their fanatics.

I mention Jazz because of this piece by Adam Gopnik, (which I am just going to crib shamelessly from the New Yorker), discussing the work of the American Thinker and Sociologist, Howard Becker:

 

“Tristano taught simple ways of solving puzzles that come up in improvising – for instance, ways of adding flatted fifths and minor ninths to otherwise too familiar chord sequences.  “He showed how to create an essentially unlimited set of possibilities to work with as I played through an evening in a bar,” Becker recalls.  Jazz solos, he learned from his models, were concocted almost entirely “from a small collection of ‘crips,’ short phrases that can be combined in a million ways, subjected to all possible variations.”  The lesson that social performance, even of the highest kind, was more a string of crips than an outpouring of confessions remained at the root of Becker’s understanding of the way the world works.”

Noodle as Editor

Perhaps the reason the majority of poems in the 2014 Anthology seem lame to me, is because I don’t understand what these Poets are doing.  One Poet, Tony Hoagland, whose poem, “Write Whiter” was included in the Anthology, and who has always seemed to me to be preternaturally discerning, wrote this about his poem in his bio:

 

“I don’t consider “Write Whiter” a great poem, nor an exceptional example of TH’s volcanic talent.  Someone easily could have written it.  However, it defines, like a station of the cross, a place in the conversation we are having; its ticket needed to be punched, and so I punched it.”  (italics mine)

 

Perhaps what these poets are doing is playing crips of tunes cribbed from People Magazine and the other ‘Glossie’ Media.  Not being cognizant of the crips – or perhaps being too cognizant of the crips and the source material as heavily clichéd, trite and intellectually shamless leaves me passe’ (to say the least).  Neither their ‘crips’, nor their placement of them, hold the charm for me apparently as they do for their true believers.

But what aggravates me no end is of the beautiful sound, rhythm and meaning which is either abandoned or not even considered in order that the included poem and poet become an included part of the current ‘conversation’.   Most of the beauty (and enjoyment) of poetry is tossed aside, in order to make the secret handshake, pay the coin of the realm, and be taken in by this secretive league of poetry Brahmin.  I’m all for social organizations, but not when their bent is to go about ruining art.

Hey!  I get indignant.

 

Or – perhaps I don’t understand what Art is?  (This realization really chills me…)

 

(Hey!  You don’t care.)  (smiley face)

 

…and I just like Beauty.

 

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The Short Version / Reviews

October 31, 2014

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Tony Hoagland / Poet

 

 

Every time I come across an article or poem by Tony Hoagland, I either turn to it immediately, or savor the thought as I thumb my way through.   He is smart, witty, enjoyable… and in his bio photo looks as I would imagine a leprechaun would as it had just cast a spell and/or achieved a little mischief with words.  The truth, for Mr. Hoagland, is mischievous.  I have no higher praise.

The fun begins, right off the bat, with his titles:  “What Narcissism Means to Me” and “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty”, among  others.  His criticism has the bite and crunch appeal of granola and milk sprinkled with fresh raspberries.  As he says himself:  “This collection of essays about poetry, (from the book “Real Sofistikashun”), neither academic nor exactly for the reader off the street, is in fact a mostly homemade set of geographies, jerry-rigged descriptions, and taxonomies. They are intended for the reader who loves poems and likes to think about them.”

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Well, so are the poems.  I opened my most recent issue of “The Sun”, to happen upon three of them.  In “Ship”, he complains:

 

At dawn I get up from my bed and draw the blinds;

            the light through the bedroom window is too strong.

            I don’t want the sun entering my house so early,

            when the dreams inside my head are still wet paint.

 

In “Upward” he laments the loss of a friendship:

 

With the help of Zen,

            my old friend Jack

            dissolved his disagreements

            with the world,

            purified his quarrels,

 

            sushed his ego,

            stopped biting back

            when bitten,

            and gradually had

            no opinions

            other than wise ones.

 

            …

 

            Goodbye, my friend, goodbye, I say

            quietly to myself

            like a character

            in some science-fiction novel

            as I watch the

 

            smooth spaceships of Zen

            slip the heavy harness

            of the earth

            and rise into the weightlessness

            of space,

 

            …

 

Reads almost like some monologue in a movie full of warmth and oddities – doesn’t it.   Tony makes me wonder if they haven’t a stable of poets somewhere on the movie backlot, who drift from light comedy to light comedy sprinkling bits of fairy enchantment.

His stuff just feels like it’s been around; never borrowed, but wise.

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Photos from Google Images / quotations by Tony Hoagland


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