Tony Hoagland is a great writer to introduce to anyone who thinks poetry is dead. Or who thinks it’s boring, or thinks it all has to rhyme, or that they don’t like poetry. His tone is so conversational, effortlessly familiar and often riotously funny, that you don’t really notice being chatted along to a smack upside the head until you get to it. But, boy, will you notice when you get there.
When Dean Young Talks About Wine
The worm thrashes when it enters the tequila.
The grape cries out in the wine vat crusher.
But when Dean Young talks about wine, his voice is strangely calm.
Yet it seems that wine is rarely mentioned.
He says, Great first chapter but no plot.
He says, Long runway, short flight.
He says, This one never had a secret.
He says, You can’t wear stripes with that.
He squints as if recalling his childhood in France.
He purses his lips and shakes his head at the glass.
Eight-four was a naughty year, he says,
and for a second I worry that California has turned him
into a sushi-eater in a cravat.
Then he says,
This one makes clear the difference
between a thoughtless remark
and an unwarranted intrusion.
Then he says, In this one the pacific last light of afternoon
stains the wings of the seagull pink
at the very edge of the postcard.
But where is the Cabernet of rent checks and asthma medication?
Where is the Burgundy of orthopedic shoes?
Where is the Chablis of skinned knees and jelly sandwiches?
with the aftertaste of cruel Little League coaches?
and the undertone of rusty stationwagon?
His mouth is purple as if from his own ventricle
he had drunk.
He sways like a fishing rod.
When a beast is hurt it roars in incomprehension.
When a bird is hurt it huddles in its nest.
But when a man is hurt,
he makes himself an expert.
Then he stands there with a glass in his hand
staring into nothing
as if he were forming an opinion.
– by Tony Hoagland (from his book What Narcissism Means to Me, 2003)