Immutably Whimsical Tony Hoagland

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Poet Tony Hoagland can make you laugh as easily as he can make you cry, but mostly his poetry makes me laugh. Hoagland’s work has been described as zany, wisecracking and disarming, his words shed light on an oblique perspective on everyday life he finds absurdity in the most difficult circumstances. Take “Fetch” for example, in which he describes finding true companionship is a four-legged friend:

but that was before I found out my metaphysical needs
                                                                      could be so easily met
by the wet gaze of a brown-and-white retriever
with a slight infection of the outer ear
                                           and a tail like a windshield wiper

“A slight infection of the outer ear?” I’m jealous.


And then there is “Dickhead” which begins with the lines:

To whomever taught me the word dickhead,

I owe a debt of thanks.


My first Tony Hoagland collection was What Narcissism Means To Me about which poet Marie Howe writes, “Hilarious, searing poems that break your heart so fast you hardly notice you’re standing knee deep in a pool o implications.”

If you need proof, read Fred Had Watched A Lot Of Kung Fu Episodes

And then a poem that might evoke sad memories, yet leave you with a smile:

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
by Tony Hoagland

On Friday afternoon David said he was divesting his holdings
in Stephanie dot org.
And Cindy announced she was getting rid of all her Dan-obelia,
and did anyone want a tennis racket or a cardigan?

Alice told Michael that she was transplanting herself
to another brand of potting soil
And Jason composed a 3-chord blues song called
“I Can’t Rake Your Leaves Anymore Mama,”
then insisted on playing it
over his speakerphone to Ellen.

The moon rose up in the western sky
with an expression of complete exhaustion,
like a 38-year old single mother
standing at the edge of the playground. Right at that moment

Betty was extracting coil after coil of Andrew’s
emotional intestines
through a verbal incision she had made in his heart,
and Jane was parachuting into an Ani Difranco concert
wearing a banner saying, Get Lost, Mark Resnick.

That’s how you find out:
out of the blue.
And it hurts, baby, it really hurts,
because breaking up is hard to do.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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2 Responses to Immutably Whimsical Tony Hoagland

  1. LB says:

    I visit your blog for many reasons, Jim, and one is that you keep introducing me to poets and more poetry. For that I thank you


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