Just read the following book, Application for Release from the Dream by Tony Hoagland, and I enjoyed it. I think I’ll read it again. A few times. I’ve taken out three brief excerpts from the book, they are small sections of three different poems. To get the full effect, you’ll have to buy the book and read it for yourself.
I had never heard of Mr. Hoagland before buying his book. Below is how I came to buy his book, take it home, and read it. If you haven’t stepped inside a bookstore in a while, you should try out your local book selling establishment, and talk with the person behind the counter. Tell them what you like, what you’re in the mood for, and how much you want to spend. Then ask them to pick out a couple of titles for you. It’s kind of fun. That’s how I shop for wine as well.
The reality TV show brought together fat white Alabama policemen
and African American families from Detroit
to live together on a custom-made plantation for a month.
America: stupidity plus enthusiasm is a special king of genius.
(excerpt from the poem Eventually the Topic)
I rode my bike to my local bookseller, Brazos Bookstore. I was looking for a specific book. They didn’t have it. That’s often the case. I tend bar down the street, and one of my customers is an 80 year old poet who has published over twenty books in his lifetime. He told me that Brazos might have at least one of his books. They didn’t. I was disappointed. But then I should know from a lifetime of browsing for books in bookstores, that they usually don’t have the book you’re looking for. Unless you’re looking for a classic or a bestseller, bookstores are for discovering new books and new authors.
Ben, the book expert had been vacuuming the store when I walked in. He saw me searching for a bike rack that wasn’t there, and as I walked in, promised me that he would keep an eye on my bike, or that I could bring it in if that would appease me. I said that it would probably be okay for five minutes, then I asked him about Robert Phillips, and the book that Robert had told me about the night before, the one he said was his favorite published book: The Land of Lost Content.
Ben set his vacuum cleaner to the side, and jumped on the computer. No, sorry, we don’t have any of his books right now. Then I asked him to find me something else.
“Doesn’t have to be, just not too serious. I’m tired of these poets who take everything so fucking seriously.”
“Two poets come to mind, they’re both local. Let’s start there, since we’ve already been looking at the local section, and those two just popped in my mind.”
“Tony Hoagland. It’s not that this poet isn’t serious, it’s the way that he takes on serious subjects. He’s funny, and his images are very detailed.”
Ben went on to sell me Mr. Hoagland’s book, as well another book by another local poet. I only had the budget for one book, so Application for Release from the Dream was my pick.
I read this 80+ page book of poetry in one “sitting” though what I mean, is that I first started at my desk, then moved on to my doorstep in the sun, then into my bathtub inside a steaming bath, and back to my desk, mostly uninterrupted other than by my own motion and inability to sit still for more than fifteen minutes.
Mr. Hoagland can be bitingly funny, flippant, and fatalistic. I laughed out loud a couple of times, and reread several of the poems as I went along. I’m rereading them now, the day after.
They took the old heart out of your chest,
all blue and spoiled like a sick grapefruit,
the way you removed your first wife from your life,
and put a strong young blonde one in her place.
(excerpt from the poem Dreamheart)
I would call his style prosaic narrative poetry, and I like both of these qualities in poetry. His images are specific, often extracted from the mundane, where he extrapolates on the everyday. His commentary tells me to take a breather and think about my life and my country for a second, all the while letting me know that maybe there’s more to what I take for granted throughout my days than I might have thought.
He does let his politics show, though they seem to agree with mine for the most part, so I don’t mind, yet he doesn’t hit us over the head with them, which is nice and admirable all the same.
The baby starts out as a luminous jellybean of god
and gradually transforms into a strange, lopsided growth:
a man who will not let himself be touched;
an aging girl who smiles and is angry with the moon.
(excerpt from the poem Airport)
Mr. Hoagland teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Santa Fe and Houston throughout the year. I’ll be looking to read more of his work, and I suggest that you read him as well. Maybe some day, he’ll walk into my bar, and I can make him a drink.
Peace & Love
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BEER SONGS FOR THE LONELY
GOOD FEELING SEVEN SHORT STORIES
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