Tony Hoagland was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and attended Williams College, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arizona. His latest book of poems, Unincorporated Persons In the Late Honda Dynasty, was published by Graywolf Press in 2010.
Peter Campion, reviewing the collection, observes that “Hoagland is obsessed both by the maneuvers of thought that we employ to make sense of fact and experience and by the tension that occurs when fact and experience resist those maneuvers.”
Screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.
Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns
of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
“Now. Steal Pleasure.”
(from ‘Summer in a Small Town’)
Hoagland’s work aims to articulate those moments in life for which we “have no words”. In an effort to capture the ineffable, his poems welcome everything we do have words for, however inadequate they may be: shopping malls and swimming pools, stage-three lymphoma and “the wet hair of women in the rai..” For all their varied details, the poems tend to coalesce around a single image or narrative. “I keep wondering if we can find a broader cultural explanation for the contemporary attraction to dissociation. Perhaps one reason is in our current, deeply ambivalent relation to knowledge itself,” he writes in his essay ‘Fear of Narrative and the Skittery Poem of Our Moment’ (published in Poetry magazine). In Hoagland’s work the absence of knowledge is pleasurable because it allows language to “move, if not inside, then / around the circumference of almost anything.”
Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.
Tony Hoagland teaches in the writing program at the University of Houston and in the Warren Wilson low-residency MFA program. His published works include Sweet Ruin (1992), which was chosen for the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and won the Zacharis Award from Emerson College, Donkey Gospel (1998), winner of the James Laughlin Award, What Narcissism Means to Me (2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and his essay collection Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft (2006). He teaches workshops designed for teachers at FivePowersPoetry.com.
Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 2010
Little Oceans (chapbook), Hollyridge Press, Venice, CA, 2009
Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 2006
Hard Rain (chapbook), Hollyridge Press, Venice, CA, 2005
What Narcissism Means to Me, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 2003
Donkey Gospel, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 1998
Sweet Ruin, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1993
2006 Dodge Poetry Festival: Tony Hoagland in Coversation
Ploughshares: Tony Hoagland receives on Zacharis award
Poetryfoundation.org: podcasts and audio poems featuring Tony Hoagland
Poetry magazine: Fear of Narrative and the Skittery Poem of Our Moment” by Tony Hoagland
Poetry magazine: Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness
Poetry magazine: Rhetoric, Music, America: Tony Hoagland’s Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty and Atsuro Riley’s Romey’s Order by Peter Campion