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Books Noted: Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

 

Graywolf Press, 2010

In the poem "In Praise of Their Divorce," Tony Hoagland writes:

And when I heard about the divorce of my friends,
I couldn't help but be proud of them,

that man and that woman setting off in different directions,
like pilgrims in a proverb

—him to buy his very own toaster oven,
her seeking a prescription for sleeping pills.

Here, and in poems throughout Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, Hoagland celebrates looking at the nitty-gritty of American culture, including divorce, shopping malls, and race relations. The poems are clear and witty and take pleasure in their angle on shared experience. In "I Have News for You," Hoagland writes that "There are people who do not see a broken playground swing / as a symbol of ruined childhood // and there are people who don't interpret the behavior / of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process." Hoagland is clearly not one of these people, reading everywhere symbols of poignancy and the unraveling of culture. His poems are the strange mixture of funny and sad that can shine a light on what they observe.


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