America’s Tony Hoagland (1953-2018) was known for provocative poems which interrogate human nature and contemporary culture with an intimate and wild urgency, located somewhere between outrage, stand-up comedy, and grief. The new poems in the final collection he completed are no less sceptical and amusing, but show a drift towards greater depths of open emotion. Over 25 years, Hoagland’s poetry became more tender and more encompassing, turning his clear-eyed vision toward the hidden spaces – and spaciousness – in the human predicament.
Tony Hoagland's poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He was American poetry's hilarious 'high priest of irony', a wisecracker and a risk-taker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushed the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.
This UK edition of Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God also includes additional poems from another recent US collection of his poetry, Recent Changes in the Vernacular (2017). A final collection, Turn Up the Ocean, drawing on the last poems he wrote, is published in 2022.
’Dreamy, irreverent, and timely.’ – O, the Oprah Magazine
’The writing is classic Hoagland: accessible and conversational, sometimes humorous, as he scrutinises everything from a book he's reading to mortality and the emotions that arise when he thinks of the music of Leonard Cohen while sitting in a hospital waiting room... The work raises important questions 'about the hazards of playing at innocence', why our culture can't seem to make progress and why no one seems to recognise the impending environmental crisis.’ – The Washington Post
’Hoagland brings both humor and grief to a stirring poetic discourse. The poems reveal a remarkable mix of simple diction and documentary detail linked together with dark humor and satire... Hoagland imbues smooth narrative with irony and surreal humor to deliver an especially rewarding book..’ – Library Journal, starred review
’Tony Hoagland is a provocateur, a brash interventionist, a deeply engaged Whitmanian poet and critic who poses, like the master, as “one of the roughs”.’ – Edward Hirsch
’[Hoagland] walks the line between the high poetic and the mass-media idiom…. His poetry expresses itself not just as a significant art, but as the best kind of entertainment.’ – Los Angeles Times
’Few [poets] deliver more pure pleasure. [Hoagland’s] erudite comic poems are backloaded with heartache and longing, and they function, emotionally, like improvised explosive devices.’ – Dwight Garner, The New York Times
'He belongs to that wagon-circle of American poets who believe in a "common reader"…Hoagland is a poet of a ragged, half-satirical, half-lyrical intensity. If Billy Collins is Updike, Hoagland is Salinger, or perhaps Holden Caulfield…making us think we know the ground we are on, then showing us that we don’t…For me, he not only pulls the rug from under my feet when it comes to the moral complacencies and platitudes that I don’t notice I live by, he does the same with my given poetic certainties.’ – Henry Shukman, Poetry London
'Hilarious, searing poems that break your heart so fast you hardly notice you’re standing knee deep in a pool of implications. They are of this moment, right now – the present that we’re already homesick for.’ – Marie Howe
USA: Graywolf Press
Tony Hoagland on D.H. Lawrence, Britney Spears and being lucky or romantic
When Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Tony Hoagland in August 2008, he was still living near Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and had published his UK selected What Narcissism Means to Me with Bloodaxe. In this film he reads two poems from that book, ‘Lawrence’ and ‘Benevolence’, and two poems from the manuscript which later became Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, ‘Romantic Moment’ and ‘Poor Britney Spears’. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: World Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).
Tony Hoagland live at Ledbury Poetry Festival
Tony Hoagland reads and introduces a selection of his poems from all his books at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2017, where he shared a stage with Thomas Lynch. Many of the poems he reads are from Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God.
Tony Hoagland: The American Poetic Voice
What is most distinctive about the American poetic voice? It may be its democratic vernacular, its elasticity, its plainness of style, its life-giving vulgarity, its pragmatism, its materialism, its self-regard, or its humour. All of these features are embedded in that mysterious element we call Voice, that rhythmic undulating metabolism which transports and delivers whatever "information" a poem contains. In this talk, given at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 3 July 2017, Tony Hoagland uses examples to analyse, admire and illustrate some of the specific secrets of the American voice, providing a means for considering the craft of any poetic voice. His examples include poems by Frank O'Hara, Ezra Pound, Louise Glück, Adrian Blevins and Genevieve Taggard.