Thursday, April 24, 2008

Romantic Moment

So Tony Hoagland is every bit as fun to read as Billy Collins, but his style is very different. I’m not sure if I can quite put my hand on exactly why Hoagland is different than Collins, but I can always tell the poems of one from the other. With that said, both poets are absolutely amazing at turning the serious into the silly and then bringing it right back to serious.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Hoagland a few weeks back and I have to say that it was an eye-opening experience. He was the featured speaker at the Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain Common Gathering up at Drew University in Madison, NJ. He read some of his poems and some of his favorite poems, and then he spoke for a bit about “life as a poet.” What was really great, though, was that, after the presentation, he spoke to me like we were buddies at a card game. I was talking Doc Long, a friend and Dodge Poet who happened to know Tony Hoagland, when Tony came over to us and began chatting. He worked his way in to the conversation, asked me questions, laughed at my sad attempts at humor, and made me completely forget that I was talking to a poetical genius.

by Tony Hoagland

After seeing the nature documentary we walk down Canyon Road
into the place of art galleries and high end clothing stores

where the mock orange is fragrant in the summer night
and the smooth adobe walls glow fleshlike in the dark.

It is just our second date, and we sit down on a bench,
holding hands, not looking at each other,

and if I were a bull penguin right now I would lean over
and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved

and if I were a peacock I'd flex my gluteal muscles to
erect and spread the quills of my cinemax tail.

If she were a female walkingstick bug she might
insert her hypodermic proboscis delicately into my neck

and inject me with a rich hormonal sedative
before attaching her egg sac to my thoracic undercarriage,

and if I were a young chimpanzee I would break off a nearby treelimb
and smash all the windows in the plaza jewelry stores.

And if she were a Brazilian leopard frog she would wrap her impressive
tongue three times around my right thigh and

pummel me lightly against the surface of our pond
and I would know her feelings were sincere.

Instead we sit awhile in silence, until
she remarks that in the relative context of tortoises and iguanas,

human males seem to be actually rather expressive.
And I say that female crocodiles really don't receive

enough credit for their gentleness.
Then she suggests it is time for us to go

to get some ice cream cones and eat them.

This was one of the poems that he read, and it made an impression on the entire audience. We all laughed and clapped and have a great time while he was reading. He read the first six lines of the poem as though it were going to be serious and somber, and he totally set us up, having not read the poem before. When he read the line “and if I were a bull penguin right now I would lean over/and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved,” the audience broke open and roared with laughter.

The poem is Hoagland’s take on the all-too-common topic of the poor communication between men and women. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as my wife and I seem to have two differing views on communication. I am the typical male; I prefer to say little and only speak up when there’s something significant to say. My wife likes to talk, and talk she does. In the morning, while watching tv, in the shower, while laying in bed… she will talk wherever, whenever, about whatever. So poems like this… well, they usually make me smile.

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