Hoagland, Tony

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Author: Burton Hatlen
Editor: David A. Galens
Date: 2004
From: Poetry for Students(Vol. 19. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,005 words

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The total quantity of Tony Hoagland's poetry is relatively small. Three slim chapbooks were incorporated in large part into the full-length book Sweet Ruin, selected by Donald Justice as the 1992 winner of the Brittingham prize. In addition, Hoagland has published other poems in various magazines. But the body of Hoagland's work is fine-honed, and it has won considerable admiration not only from Justice but also from critics like Carl Dennis and Carolyn Kizer. Hoagland's poems characteristically open with dramatic flair: "When I think of what I know about America, / I think of kissing my best friend's wife / in the parking lot of the zoo one afternoon. . . ." or "That was the summer my best friend / called me a faggot on the telephone, / hung up, and vanished from the earth. . . ." These openings suggest the narrative mode in which Hoagland likes to work, and the need to find out what happens draws the reader into the poem. Hoagland develops his narratives in longish poems, almost always more than a page and sometimes as long as three pages, that normally resolve themselves in a wry, epigrammatic twist that implicitly acknowledges the insolubility of the initial premise; after you kiss your best friend's wife or after your best friend calls you a faggot, there is no going back.The geography of Hoagland's poetry is white, middle-class suburban, post-1960s. Hoagland explores this region with a pervasive irony, a bravura wit, and sometimes a probing self-awareness.

The geography...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420052909