poem index

About this poet

Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951 and educated at Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1983.

His volumes of poetry include Ecstatic in the Poison (Overlook Press, 2003); Babylon in a Jar (1998); The Glass Hammer: A Southern Childhood (1994); The Never-Ending: New Poems (1991),a finalist for the National Book Awards; After the Lost War: A Narrative (1988), which received the Poetry Prize; and Saints and Strangers (1985), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of a book of essays, The Glass Anvil (1997).

About Hudgins's most recent collection, Mark Strand has said, "Ecstatic in the Poison is full of intelligence, vitality, and grace. And there is a beautiful oddness about it. Dark moments seem charged with an eerie luminosity and the most humdrum events assume a startling lyric intensity. A deep resonant humor is everywhere, and everywhere amazing."

Hudgins's awards and honors include the Witter Bynner Award for Poetry, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hudgins has taught at Baylor University and University of Cincinnati; he currently teaches at Ohio State University.

Steppingstone

Andrew Hudgins
Home (from Court Square Fountain—    
where affluent ghosts still importune     
a taciturn
slave to entertain
them with a slow barbarous tune     
in his auctioned baritone—
to Hank Williams' headstone      
atop a skeleton 
loose in a pristine
white suit and bearing a pristine
white bible, to the black bloodstain 
on Martin King's torn
white shirt and Jim Clark's baton,
which smashed black skulls to gelatin)
was home, at fifteen: brimstone
on Sunday morning, badminton
hot afternoons, and brimstone      
again that night.  Often, 
as the preacher flailed the lectern,     
the free grace I couldn't sustain  
past lunch led to clandestine  
speculation. Skeleton              
and flesh, bone and protein
hold—or is it detain?—
my soul. Was my hometown
Montgomery's molten
sunlight or the internal nocturne 
of my unformed soul? Was I torn
from time or was time torn
from me? Turn
on byzantine
turn, I entertain
possibilities still, and overturn 
most. It's routine
now to call a hometown   
a steppingstone—  
and a greased, uncertain,    
aleatory stone 
at that. Metaphors attune   
our ears to steppingstone,        
as well a corner-, grind-, and millstone—
all obtain
and all also cartoon
history, which like a piston, 
struck hard and often
that blood-dappled town
scrubbed with the acetone
of American inattention. Atone
me no atoning. We know the tune
and as we sing it, we attain
a slow, wanton,
and puritan
grace, grace can't contain.

Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Hudgins. Used by permission of the author.

Andrew Hudgins

Andrew Hudgins

Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951 and educated at Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama.

by this poet

poem
After my night job, I sat in class
and ate, every thirteen minutes,
an orange peanut—butter cracker.
Bright grease adorned my notes.

At noon I rushed to my day job
and pushed a broom enough
to keep the boss calm if not happy.
In a hiding place, walled off

by bolts of calico and serge,
I read my masters and
poem
In
When we first heard from blocks away
the fog truck's blustery roar,
we dropped our toys, leapt from our meals,
and scrambled out the door

into an evening briefly fuzzy.
We yearned to be transformed—
translated past confining flesh
to disembodied spirit.  We swarmed

in thick smoke, taking human form
before we
poem
Storms of perfume lift from honeysuckle,
lilac, clover—and drift across the threshold,
outside reclaiming inside as its home.
Warm days whirl in a bright unnumberable blur,
a cup—a grail brimmed with delirium
and humbling boredom both.  I was a boy,
I thought I'd always be a boy, pell—mell,
mean, and gaily