An eagerly awaited new collection of poems by contemporary favorite Tony Hoagland, author of Donkey Gospel How did I come to believe in a government called Tony Hoagland? With an economy based on flattery and self-protection? and a sewage system of selective forgetting? and an extensive history of broken promises? --from "Argentina" InWhat Narcissism Means to Me, award-winning poet Tony Hoagland levels his particular brand of acute irony not only on the personal life, but also on some provinces of American culture. In playful narratives, lyrical outbursts, and overheard conversations, Hoagland cruises the milieu, exploring the spiritual vacancies of American satisfaction. With humor, rich tonal complexity, and aggressive moral intelligence, these poems bring pity to our folly and celebrate our resilience.
With a title like this one, you might think more of the same awaits. Not so. This book is by far the most developed of Hoagland's collections; his voice is more dynamic, more layered. A friend of mine used the word "shrewd," and I think that's a good choice. He has a sense of humor that reminds me in a way of Alfred Hitchcock's--dry, wry, precise. It's rare poets have a sense of humor about themselves or the world we're living in, and this quality of Hoagland's work is for me the most refreshing. He also has a way of handling life's quotidian simplicities without the usual self-important righteousness; he is very low-brow, and very unafraid. There's also an admirable humanity to Hoagland, in that his edginess doesn't mean he's unapproachable. A rare quality indeed.
Also the first book of poetry in a long time I was able to sit down and simply read straight through. Its four sections move along in an almost novelistic way. Highly recommended.