Real Sofistikashun and Contemporary Poetics

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Tony Hoagland’s Real Sofistikashun, a collection of essays, provides one of the most unified and cohesive views of the issues surrounding contemporary poetics that I have read so far. It provides a perfect companion to my undergraduate study of poetics dating from before the modernists, and shines light on so many of the issues in contemporary poetics that I have been groping through darkly: the relationship between language poetry, postmodernism, confessional poetry, surrealism, image, tone, juxtaposition, deconstructionism, the need for some central “heat” in a poem and the dance of the trust relationship with the reader.

Hoagland brings so much insight to bear on the strengths and perils of writing to the contemporary sensibility — a sensibility that seems to simultaneously crave both cohesion and disjunction. He does not dismiss anything within the spectrum, but finds virtue in everything from Ashberry to Oliver. His essays progress with almost dialectic momentum, bouncing from pole to pole before evenutally settling, in the final essay, on Hoagland’s own personal approach to reconciling the emotional, confessional, romantic and imagistic with a modern distrust of all of these qualities.
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