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.