Oct 9, 2012

Pick a Favorite: Tony Hoagland, Andrew Hudgins, Franz Wright

I suppose this smacks too much of the classroom, but I'm doing it anyway. I hope you'll take your time and enjoy it. I'm already interested in responses, but no, I'm not lurking in a dark corner, wielding an oak cudgel with the right answer burned into it. My own jury is where it usually is:  lunch.

Here are two Tony Hoagland poems. Which do you prefer and why?

At the Galleria Shopping Mall by Tony Hoagland : Poetry Magazine   

Personal by Tony Hoagland : Poetry Magazine

White-Breasted Nuthatch 8/18/12:

“I took it all quite personal—//
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields . . .
And I cursed what hurt me//
and I praised what gave me joy”

Compare  either of the Tony Hoagland poems to the Andrew Hudgins and Franz Wright work recently discussed here:

 Praying Drunk by Andrew Hudgins : The Poetry Foundation

To Myself by Franz Wright : The Poetry Foundation

Which of the four poems is your favorite and why?

A different question:  which one of the four do you admire most and why?

Near Romeo, Michigan, 10/7/12



WAS said...

“Personal” and “To Myself” seem to me like two peas in a pod. Both reference some catastrophe –someone leaving, I think, with the cleanest of exit wounds - and a mind left to reflect on how to feel, think and do without much external input. Hoagland’s character tries to draw in others to his pain through externalization, pitting himself as the angriest dog in the world who refuses to do what others tell him to do and depersonalize. The irony is palpable, since there’s no discernible I that is expressing itself, only a bevy of detail that serves as some kind of wailing post for his reactions. Wright’s character, feeling just as alienated and just as much in need of company, takes the opposite tact of imagining/seeing his higher self emerge to tell him that the self is complete as is. It is a much more positive and hopeful message, I think.

The other two seem to be tracing in their own way the fall of Eden that is modern-day America, with its addictions, diversions, and freedom to be stupid. There is a spiritual message in there somewhere, Holderlin’s trace of the divine’s shadow, but it is far less palpable than in Wright’s poem, so I guess that’s the one I would choose as my favorite. Thanks for asking.

Banjo52 said...

William, Bravo. I esp. like it from "The irony is palpable" to the end. Also, very interesting on how much we know each speaker as a human. Thanks.

Pasadena Adjacent said...


I hope you won't be insulted if I don't read anyones opinions on this for a bit

Most everything I believe about the heart is in this poem. Going back for a second read

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Maybe I should of said "I hope none takes this personally" I now realize you've posted several poems as I go back and try to find the one I read first


Banjo52 said...

PA, How about a 10-page piece from you on this: "Most everything I believe about the heart . . . " Nice.

Anonymous said...

I was about to give up when I read the first, which I didn't like, not one bit. But everyone's got to find at least one thing personal in the Personal poem (which makes it a little kitchen-sinky, but never mind). I found this:

I believe in saying it all/and taking it all back

Me, too! I've always believed that what's done can be undone if you had the patience and understood the philosophy of knots.

Banjo52 said...

AH, philosophy of knots . . . Is it that we tie and then un-tie knots?? Let me think about that.

What do you say to the old saw that for some statements ("excited utterances" as they say on Law & Order) "you can't un-ring that bell" or un-say what you said?

Jean Spitzer said...

My favorite is the photo of the nuthatch; it looks so hopeful.

Not crazy about any of the poems, but can find parts I like in all, especially "I believe in the compound fracture . . . ."

Banjo52 said...

Jean, I like him too, even though I only caught half of him. I find him chunky and professorial.

Rune Eide said...

First - applause for the photos: Autumn in a nutshell!
I find the two Hoagland poems in the same genre, though the "Personal" one a bit more bitter and negative. None of them for me - reminds of the ranting of blog-comments (sorry)

The other two have a religious feel to them (as I think I have written before about the Praying Drunk). I think I'll stay with that one since to me it digs deeper into the human existence and at the same time connects it to the world outside.

Stickup Artist said...

I related to "At the Galleria Shopping Mall" because it's the world I grew up in, many are growing up in now, and if not, aspire to. (If they can afford it). I think it's a highly worthwhile poem for discussion, especially in a jr. high or high school classroom, which doesn't make it any less valid and relevant. I won't say it's refined or transcendent, but I read all of them earlier this week and that's the one I will remember...

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I went back and read them all. Liked them all too. I kind of favor the ranters. You know, Bukowski confessional types. I went through a period where I would attend AA meetings (the big monthly gatherings where it was speakers only) to listen to the "how it was-what changed - what it's like now" speeches.

I recently read this on the tattoos a poet friend had placed on her feet

"My feet tattoos are an iamb and a trochee--the most standard way we measure rhythmic beats in poetry (iambic pentameter is five iambs--or feet--to the poetic line, which is why I put them on my feet). Basically, it marks me as a poet. Or that was the idea anyway."

It's a reminder of how little I know about this field and thus maybe the penchant for the shouters and nuance - less types.

Banjo52 said...

RuneE, I get it, and I agree about the . . . potentially? . . . religious elements in the other two. I might agree with your preferences as well. Now that I've thought about it for awhile, I would for the moment rank the poems this way, in terms of excellence:

1. "To Myself" (originality, intensity, compactness, vivid gifts along the way)

2. a tie, "Praying Drunk" and "Personal," though I probably favor "Praying Drunk" just a bit more.

3. "G. Shopping Mall," in which I like the theme or message, but find considerably fewer splendid visual moments and insights along the way, line by line, within. It seems a bit obvious, predictable, compared to the other three.

Stickup, good point about works for the classroom. A poem's accessibility to teens is NOT a reason to dismiss it. Also, your point about what you remembered after a week--lately I've been wondering if that's the major criterion for judging writing and art. It's way subjective, but ultimately, what isn't subjective when it comes to criticism? After careful reasoning and incorporating the wisdom of the ages (of artists and scholars), doesn't it come to Emily Dickinson's notion of a poem's blowing the top of your head off? So if Poem X has blown off the top of more (educated) heads than Poem Y, Poem X is the better or greater poem (though Poem Y might have affected greater numbers of readers . . . )

PA, great story, esp. the humorous play on "feet." I'll stick with memorizing meter, or simply listening for it, and skip the needles, if it's all the same to your friend--though her commitment is . . . fascinating.

Lovers' Lane