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Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craftby Tony Hoagland
Synopses & Reviews
The anticipated first collection of essays by celebrated poet Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me
Meanness, the very thing that is unforgivable in human social life, in poetry is thrilling and valuable. Why? Because the willingness to be offensive sets free the ruthless observer in all of us, the spiteful perceptive angel who sees and tells, unimpeded by nicety or second thoughts. There is truth-telling, and more, in meanness. --from "Negative Capability: How to Talk Mean and Influence People"
Tony Hoagland has won The Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award, recognizing a poet's contribution to humor in American poetry, and also the Folger Shakespeare Library's O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize, the only major award that honors a poet's excellence in teaching. Real Sofistikashun, from the title onward, uses Hoagland's signature abilities to entertain and instruct as he forages through central questions about how poems behave and how they are made.
In these taut, illuminating essays, Hoagland explores aspects of poetic craft--metaphor, tone, rhetorical and compositional strategies--with the vigorous, conversational style less of the scholar than of the serious enthusiast and practitioner. Real Sofistikashun is an exciting, humorous, and provocative collection of essays, as pleasurable a book as it is useful.
"Hoagland's third book of poetry, the flirtatiously-titled What Narcissism Means to Me (2005), established him as one of the smarter, and funnier, poets of his generation, well balanced between absurdity and confession; those strengths are on show in this first gathering of prose, which lands him midway between academic analysis and off-the-cuff observations on his art. Some pieces have appeared in journals as polemical essays. Others sound composed for the lecture hall, and none are simply book reviews. Instead, Hoagland offers strong opinions about such matters as the virtues of variable diction; the uses and limits of unconscious, intuitively inspired, metaphor (with particular reference to Larry Levis); and the origins of that nonnarrative, disjunctive form which Hoagland dubs 'the skittery poem of our moment.' Occasionally his remarks don't compute ('Tone is most visible when it is at an angle'); more often they will help many young writers. Hoagland (who teaches in the prestigious writing program at the University of Houston) uses recent poetry to illustrate most of his ideas-from much-laureled figures such as Louise Gluck and Robert Pinsky to such lesser known and slightly younger writers like Laura Kasischke and Jason Shinder. He works less as an advocate for particular poets and poems than as a teacher of poetic craft, at times recommending a focus on person, place and thing, and elsewhere advocating a remarkable, not-entirely-conscious mode of writing in which 'language is energized, dilates, balloons, proliferates and begins to write us.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Poet Hoagland (U. of Houston) writes here neither for academic nor for off-the-street readers, but for those who love poems and like to think about them. He describes his own step-by-step process of thinking through certain topics in hopes that readers will be inspired to embark on their own investigations. Some of his topics are the slipperiness of metaphor, the dialectic use of tone, and how to talk mean and influence people. Six of the 14 essays have been previously published. There is no index. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The anticipated first collection of essays by celebrated poet Tony Hoagland, author of "What Narcissism Means to Me," explores metaphor, tone, rhetorical and compositional strategies with the vigorous, conversational style less of the scholar than of the serious enthusiast and practitioner.
About the Author
TONY HOAGLAND is the author of three poetry collections, including What Narcissism Means to Me, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Donkey Gospel, winner of the James Laughlin Award. He teaches at the University of Houston.
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