“Application for Release from the Dream” by Tony Hoagland

“Application for Release from the Dream” by Tony Hoagland

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...
Looking for readers

Looking for readers

Hey folks! What’s going on? It’s almost the end of 2016, and the start of 2017. It’s been rough, but what the hell, I’m coming out of it breathing and kicking. I started out the year homeless and working on a farm, and ended the year with a roof over my head and a car in the garage. Things are looking up. At least personally. In 2013, I set out to write and publish 1 book per year. I did good in 2014 and 2015. Now, in 2016 I did manage to write a book, unfortunately I ran out of funds and wasn’t able to publish. Which is fine. It means I have more time to make sure it’s as good as I can make it before going to press. And that’s where you come in. I need readers. I need your comments and thoughts. I need to make sure that my manuscript, SONGS OF THE ROLLIN CHATEAU is ready to become a book, and for that, I need your help. The artist Brian Wootan, and myself, are working on making SONGS OF THE ROLLIN CHATEAU a great little book. Brian is working on several illustrations that will go inside the book, as well as the front and back covers. He is also working on a couple of posters, and we will decide on at least two broadsides. Before the spring, Brian and myself will launch a crowdfunding campaign where we will pre-sell books, posters, broadsides, and private poetry & art parties at your house. Your comments will be used to first help out in finalizing the manuscript, and...
Two Slim Volumes

Two Slim Volumes

Recently, I read two very different books that have changed something within me in a good way. The first of these two book is a slim volume by Elizabeth Bishop that I picked up at Book People. Geography III is Bishop’s last book. I’m ashamed to admit, it’s the first I’ve read by her. It won’t be the last. Then last week, before going on a road trip to Santa Fe, I decided that I needed a book specifically for my journey, so I stopped at Malvern Books and asked Schandra, the Assistant Store Manager who happened to be working that day, to please help me pick out a book. She chose Fair Play, by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal. Turns out this is also a slim volume, though this one is a collection of interrelated short stories. I don’t think that it is entirely irrelevant that both these books were written by two established writers toward the end of each their lives. The powerfully descriptive poetry of Bishop, and the seemingly mundane world of Jansson is exactly what I needed. Is exactly what I need right now. I’ve been struggling trying to figure out what my next book will be, and I’ve been struggling with the type of writing that I write, seemingly autobiographical tidbits, written either as prose or as poems. These two writers, Jansson and Bishop, do it much better than I’ve ever done. Maybe toward the end of my life, after lots of hard work, I will achieve the power in my writing these two writers have achieved in theirs. Fair Play is a...
Taking the Highway in Roads

Taking the Highway in Roads

If you’re a dreamer, and you long for the journey, Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways, by Larry McMurtry is for you. The muse of this book is the highway, not the place of departure, not the place of arrival, but the journey between those two points. In a sense, where one might be heading, and where one comes from, is of little importance. And throughout this journey, the journeys previously lived come back and are lived again all at once, together. It’s as if life itself is a series of building blocks to be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed ad infinitum, in an infinite never ending puzzle that changes on a whim, is lived at eighty miles an hour, and then stops abruptly. While the journey is happening, there is no end, there is no beginning, there is everything all at once, there is only the highway. In Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways, McMurtry attempts to transcend time itself. That, of course, is not possible. You’d have to travel faster than the speed of light to actually be able to do that. What he achieves is the illusion of bringing his life, the life of other writers, of the various people of America together, as if the highway was the glue that binds centuries of lives, bringing them together by the sheer force of the road traveled. He rarely gets off the highway, he eats at bland nondescript places, sleeps in unnamed motels, leaving first thing in the morning, and avoids all the tourist trappings of rural America. The only thing that matters is the road, the musings the road...
It’s not the story, it’s how you tell it

It’s not the story, it’s how you tell it

The story doesn’t matter. It is all in the application of the words on the page. The way they come together one after the other. What matters is not the story or the plot; what matters is the writing itself, the telling of the story is more important than the story itself. Most writers have to have a story. The greatest writers don’t need a story at all, they can keep you captivated without a narrative. The good, even most of the great writers, need a story, a narrative of some kind to help keep their words together with meaning. The bad writer needs a great narrative, and the better you are, the simpler your narrative can be. The genius writer needs no narrative at all. Most of us are not geniuses. Unfortunately, many a mediocre writer thinks they’re great. It’s mostly delusion. In fact, most writers are barely qualified to write a wedding thank-you card. Those writers, and by those writers I mean 99% of all us writers, need some sort of narrative to hold our thoughts together. When they try to write without a narrative, they fail miserably, and what they put out is no better than public masturbation, which is no fun at all for the audience. Unless, of course, you’re a really good public masturbator. There’s an exception to every rule, otherwise what would be the point? You could be a great masturbator and still be only a descent storyteller, and a horrible writer. As long as you’re good at something, that’s what matters to keep the audience interested. Just to make sure I don’t...
An Afternoon Stroll to the Library

An Afternoon Stroll to the Library

The other day, I walked to the Perry–Castañeda Library (PCL) on UT campus. Twenty minute walk from where I live. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside that building. Curiously, I’ve lived a great amount of my little life walking distance from the University of Texas, and have hardly ever gone there. I guess it’s kind of normal as I am not nor have I ever been a student at that university. And not so strangely, I’ve always assumed that UT is mostly for the students who attend classes and the professors who teach them, as well as the army of folks it takes to administer to the campus and those two groups. What I didn’t know is that the library, probably the best library in the city of Austin, is open to the public. Isn’t that cool? So why would I take on such a journey in our balmy 95+ degree Central Texas weather? A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend of a friend of mine who works at PCL. She’s a librarian, and she is in charge of a tiny little corner of the this massive garguantan library (6 floors, each of which is hundreds of thousands of square feet, massive is an understatement). The five hundred square feet she is in charge of is called the UT Poetry Center. It’s tucked away in a massive study room where what seems like thousands of tables are gathered as well as a couple of computer labs, each furnished with hundreds of the latest fastest best computers available. There, in a corner as if an afterthought, a...