Tony Hoagland recently won The Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award, recognizing a poet's contribution to humor in American poetry, and also the Folger Shakespeare Library's O. B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize, the only major award that honors a poet's excellence in teaching as well as writing. Real Sofistikashun, from the title onward, uses Hoagland's signature and complementary abilities to entertain and to instruct while he examines and exposes how poems behave and how they are made.
In these taut, illuminating essays, Hoagland explores aspects of poetic craft--metaphor, tone, rhetorical and compositional strategies--with the vigorous, conversational style less of the scholar than of the serious enthusiast and practitioner. Poets such as Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, Larry Levis, William Matthews, and Robert Pinsky are studied for their examples, and essays on fragmentation and the uses of experimental methods describe innovative modes in the contemporary period style. Throughout, Hoagland points out the winning complexities of the poetic art, which connects us with verve and economy to experience--to our internal understanding, to the templates of human nature, and to the facts of the world at large.
Hoagland is the rare poet who is as readable and enjoyable in critical prose as he is in poetry. Real Sofistikashun is an exciting, humorous, and provocative collection of essays, as pleasurable a book as it is useful.