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Real Sofistikashun [Paperback]

Tony Hoagland

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Book Description

Sept. 19 2006
The anticipated first collection of essays by celebrated poet Tony Hoagland, author of What Narcissism Means to Me

Meanness, the very thing that is unforgivable in human social life, in poetry is thrilling and valuable. Why? Because the willingness to be offensive sets free the ruthless observer in all of us, the spiteful perceptive angel who sees and tells, unimpeded by nicety or second thoughts. There is truth-telling, and more, in meanness. --from "Negative Capability: How to Talk Mean and Influence People"

Tony Hoagland has won The Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award, recognizing a poet's contribution to humor in American poetry, and also the Folger Shakespeare Library's O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize, the only major award that honors a poet's excellence in teaching. Real Sofistikashun, from the title onward, uses Hoagland's signature abilities to entertain and instruct as he forages through central questions about how poems behave and how they are made.

In these taut, illuminating essays, Hoagland explores aspects of poetic craft--metaphor, tone, rhetorical and compositional strategies--with the vigorous, conversational style less of the scholar than of the serious enthusiast and practitioner. Real Sofistikashun is an exciting, humorous, and provocative collection of essays, as pleasurable a book as it is useful.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (Sept. 19 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974558
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #426,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Hoagland's third book of poetry, the flirtatiously-titled What Narcissism Means to Me (2005), established him as one of the smarter, and funnier, poets of his generation, well balanced between absurdity and confession; those strengths are on show in this first gathering of prose, which lands him midway between academic analysis and off-the-cuff observations on his art. Some pieces have appeared in journals as polemical essays. Others sound composed for the lecture hall, and none are simply book reviews. Instead, Hoagland offers strong opinions about such matters as the virtues of variable diction; the uses and limits of unconscious, intuitively inspired, metaphor (with particular reference to Larry Levis); and the origins of that nonnarrative, disjunctive form which Hoagland dubs "the skittery poem of our moment." Occasionally his remarks don't compute ("Tone is most visible when it is at an angle"); more often they will help many young writers. Hoagland (who teaches in the prestigious writing program at the University of Houston) uses recent poetry to illustrate most of his ideas-from much-laureled figures such as Louise Gluck and Robert Pinsky to such lesser known and slightly younger writers like Laura Kasischke and Jason Shinder. He works less as an advocate for particular poets and poems than as a teacher of poetic craft, at times recommending a focus on person, place and thing, and elsewhere advocating a remarkable, not-entirely-conscious mode of writing in which "language is energized, dilates, balloons, proliferates and begins to write us."
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About the Author

TONY HOAGLAND is the author of three poetry collections, including What Narcissism Means to Me, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Donkey Gospel, winner of the James Laughlin Award. He teaches at the University of Houston.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a slow pleasure Oct. 25 2006
By Mr. Richard K. Weems - Published on Amazon.com
Tony Hoagland's poetry already hint subtly at his attention to detail and craft, so the depth to which he can explore the creation of poetry in these essays comes as no surprise. But while Hoagland can write with precision about the marriage of rhetoric, diction and image in poetry and analyze the minutiae of tone and its complexities, he still preserves a delight for the spontaneity of writing and promotes a certain kind of un-knowingness in the process of creation.

This last point is very refreshing to see, for the trap of the basic contradictory action of writing exposition about creative writing is often to dictate or at least suggest conscious focus on the complexities of writing poetry, and all too often essays about poetry writing become flat shells about a very multi-dimensional process. Hoagland resists the impulse to prescribe, if it ever comes to him at all, and instead celebrates the end effects of wonderful poetry. When he does discuss the creation of poetry, he is an advocate of student-mind and fresh outlooks and the ability to change and adapt, as he does in his essays about particular poets like Pinsky and Gluck. Hoagland also defines well the pleasures of schools like language poetry and its energetic playfulness, but identifies fairly where they fall short of being thoroughly satisfying.

But don't take all of this as an impression that the book is stuffy and overly academic. Hoagland maintains a sense of humor through this book, keeping his language accessible and familiar.

Though I sometimes quibbled with Hoagland's choices of poets worthy of very particular attention in their own essays, and in the end I was no more of a fan of the work of these poets than before his praise of them, this sequence of essays will be enlightening to those familiar with the art of poetry. Though this book may prove a little more difficult for those without as much experience already in the craft of poetry, it is worth a slow, deliberate read.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an impressive and invaluable contribution Dec 8 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
"Real Sofistikashun: Essays On Poetry And Craft" by Tony Hogland (who is the author of three published poetry collections and is the recipient of the Folger Shakespeare Library's O. B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize) is a compilation of essays in which he deftly explores the craft of writing poetry in a more conversational style than that commonly employed in traditional verse. Hogland addresses the use of metaphor, tone, rhetorical and compositional strategies in a thoroughly `reader friendly' manner that is as inherently fascinating as it is informed and informative. "Real Sofistikashun" is an impressive and invaluable contribution to personal, academic, and community library Literary Studies reference collections and the `Art of Poetry' supplemental reading lists.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Advise of a Master of Contemporary American Poetry June 4 2012
By Zoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tony Hoagland is the real deal, and tucked into these pages are words from the frontlines of American poetry from someone engaged in fighting the battles for understanding what is really going on out there in the too often arcane world of American poetry. Get it on your self ASAP -- there is gold in these essays that will help any poet writing today to better understand their craft and it's position in the landscape of journals and publishing -- this book is golden indeed!
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Critic May 13 2014
By Schnoodle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tony Hoagland is fantastic reading. Following his lively thinking is wonderful fare for the thoughtful. He opens so many doors in a poem. It becomes a house rather than a room... and sometimes a whole hotel.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for beginners and how would I know what a practised poet would think? Feb. 25 2014
By Billy Pilgrim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was my beginning of understanding what poetry is and how to read it and what it is all about basically. I knew as much about poetry as NASCAR racing before reading this which is nothing, what with me having a masters in brit lit and and all I felt a bit foolish but I forded ahead and and got my feet on dry land with the help of Mr. H. I highly recommend it if poetry scares you silly or is totally opaque as it was to me. Can't thank the fellow enough for writing it. I had memorized a lot of poetry in the hopes that it would take but am now firmly convinced that a good teacher is necessary and Tony Hoagland will mesmerize, entertain and remove the veils that afflict you.

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