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  • By Ana
    Jan 23, 2012
    The intimate whisper of truth Michael Hogan’s new collection of poetry brings together selections from over a dozen chapbooks and earlier out-of-print books, as well as poetry that has appeared in journals such as the Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, and New Letters. Sam Hamill’s warm introduction is a valuable addition to a lifetime’s work by a much beloved poet and teacher. I join perhaps a thousand others who had the good fortune of being a student during Dr. Hogan’s twenty-year tenure as a professor in Mexico. I was also privileged to work with him as an assistant editor of the Sin Fronteras, the Guadalajara literary magazine. What is striking about most of the poems in this collection is their quiet tone. They begin usually in medias res of a casual narrative and then bring the reader to a gentle realization or seductive dénouement. Sam Hamill wrote in an earlier essay on Hogan’s work that “nobody uses silence to greater effect.” I agree. There is this evocative... More > voice that leads the reader to a discovery almost simultaneous with the poet’s own awakening. SHE ALWAYS KEEP A NEAT HOUSE but this morning finding no ash trays to empty she pours out a single cup of tea and speaks quietly to the cat. Life is full of small adjustments. She moves quietly thought the day as if the slightest thing—leaves burning, a letter addressed OCCUPANT would make her cry Last night the moon flowing through a window made her pull the shade without thinking, fade her whisper to the darken room: For a moment I thought you were sleeping. Hogan’s gentle handling of grief, love lost, the durability of friendship, the daily grind of physical labor, as well as the brutalization of prisons where he conducted writing workshops in the 70s and 80s are all here in this collection. Perhaps the most widely anthologized poem in the collection is one written during that period. SPRING Ice has been cracking all day and small boys on the shore pretending it is the booming of artillery lie prone clutching imaginary carbines. Inside the compound returning birds peck at bread scraps from the mess hall. Old cons shiver in cloth jackets as they cross the naked quadrangle. They know the inside perimeter is exactly two thousand eighty-four steps and they can walk it five more times before the steam whistle blows for count. Above them a tower guard dips his rifle then raises it again dreamily. He imagines a speckled trout coming up shining and raging with life As Sam Hamill writes in his Introduction: “Hogan’s poems most often contain a narrative thread that leads into an awakening insight, a meditative revelation that arrives not with a shock, but with a sigh or a moment of stillness capturing an essence that is pure poetry, that moment between image-making and philosophy, between the intimate whisper of truth and the song’s need to be sung. I feel that I am in the company of a natural poet, a poet for whom modesty and clarity of vision are as organic as the drawing of a breath.” Another aspect of Hogan’s work which I have delighted in and which most readers love was aptly described by Rochelle Ratner described in the Library Journal. “Hogan is a master craftsman,” she wrote, “quiet, gentle, with a positive, uplifting humor.” It was this latter quality that William Stafford admired years ago in one of his rare commentaries on a contemporary poet: “I feel the pull and tug of many Hogan poems,” Stafford wrote, “especially ‘Trusting Nature.’” We had a front door I remember that always stuck from warping or moisture or just being obstinate I don’t know which but friends always came to the back and by the time she got it open for the Fuller Brush Man she was so petulant he wouldn’t even attempt a sale or do anything beyond leaving a few samples. Mother also used that door as an obstacle to discourage visitors of any kind who had not been fully forged in the white heat of native suspicion and gone to the back door fully cleared and established as a friend which was another example of New England ingenuity because she always had a welcome mat out and never locked the doors never put up signs No Vendors or Beware Of The Dog just trusted nature to provide the warping or moisture or just being obstinate I don’t know which. Stafford was not alone in his praise for Hogan’s gentle humor which delighted poet-editors George Hitchcock, Joseph Bruchac, Ray Gonzalez, X.J.Kennedy and even Thomas R. Arp who along with Laurence Perrine edited the text that I used in school, Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which includes a classic Hogan poem. I have wonderful memories of being in Dr. Hogan’s class many years ago. And I am warmed by these poems now just as I was by his voice as I sat by a window looking out at a fountain in Guadalajara’s Colonia Providencia. Lulled by the sound of the water, we listened to him talk about life and literature and occasionally read a poem or a bit of a story which moved him (and in his reading moved us) and gave us a glimpse of what Eliot describes as” that moment in and out of time…when the music is heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.” Now I am living in Israel, a very different place but still part of the world that Michael Hogan created in his classes and that he made us all feel at home in. Even now as I sit here on my patio and feel the heat of the day withdrawing, I can hear his words: How easy to love this place this time without time in the peace of its darkening where already the cool breeze of the mountains has set the branches trembling and death itself, simply the other side of a leaf. (“The Patio at Dusk”)< Less
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Product Details

February 6, 2012
Hardcover (casewrap)
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.72 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
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