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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Number 78: Tony Hoagland "I Have News For You"

I Have News For You

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

-- Tony Hoagland

Hap Notes: Tony Hoagland (born 1953) is so accessible, like Billy Collins, that you almost get blind-sided by the deep stuff lodged in its seemingly simple heart. You feel like he's chatting with you, or maybe you're overhearing him talk to someone, or talk to himself and then everything telescopes out into the larger universe. He's a guide to the cosmos that you met in the hardware store. He's an especial favorite of mine.

The difference between everyday speech and describing what is pulsing underneath it, is poetry. Hoagland is certainly poetry and not just idle conversation. Contemporary conversational poets give one the illusion of casual observances but they are laid in the cement of poetry. They claim poet as their title. They published it as poetry. It may seem like I am stating the obvious. Again, read closely.

In "I Have News For You" what is the poet saying about us, about poets? Marianne Moore, in her poem about poetry says "there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle." Hoagland is maybe saying the same thing about contemporary angst.

Hoagland grew up on Army bases, his dad was an army doctor. He was born at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. (I love the name Fort Bragg. Even though it was named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg, it always sounds to me like a perfect name for the military.) He went to a variety of colleges (I think he was on the classic ten-year plan where it takes you ten years to figure out how to pay for it and what to major in and man, wouldn't it be cool to just hang out and have a job for a year thing.) He currently teaches at the University of Houston.

Here's a good Hoagland quote (I'm always stunned to find out that people other than me did this- I used to think it was an odd thought, but apparently it's somewhat common.) : "I know that people often say "you want to learn poems by heart so that if you ever go to prison you can say them to yourself, and it will give you consolation and comfort and companionship." I think that was true for me, and that it still remains true for me."

And another: "I feel that we are so drowned in a culture whose media forces and spin-doctoring are so powerful, so pervasive, and so hard to ignore, that poetry is actually well-equipped to present a model of what our experience is like right now. It is able to name it, to name the affliction which is very, very hard to name. To name that affliction that an ordinary American experiences walking around: the enormous confusion of hierarchies; the value and information; the bombardment; the difficulty of finding stillness."

You can find more Hoagland here:

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