Volume 8 (Fall 2014)
Hoagland's second collection of essays on American poetry delivers the same intellectual scrutiny that was in the first one, also by Graywolf Press, Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft. That's no surprise. As one of the country's most talked about poets and outspoken critics, he is known for his wide-ranging knowledge and searing inquiry into what poetics is and does, and he has made clear when he thinks it fails as much as when it succeeds. He hasn't shied away from talking to and about fellow poets. What is new in this collection is a sense of yearning as much as of clarifying. His essays may stake out an aesthetic viewpoint, but they also reveal a, perhaps new, maturity and vulnerability, a desire to speak on behalf of what poetry might do, how it might save our souls, something very much out of favor in the American secular literary arts. Certainly still an advocate of the pleasures of the well wrought poem—and willing to lay stakes on what makes for one—these essays are an elegy for the ways we are letting poetry get away from the culture and a liturgy toward the liminal; between the sacred and the profane, Hoagland seems to be saying, we might find “the grace of the future.”
Expectations are high for this collection of essay, and it delivers in smart, but also surprising and tender ways.
– Laura McCullough
Twenty Poems That Could Save America and Other Essays
by Tony Hoagland (Graywolf, 2014)