By Tony Hoagland
(Graywolf Press, Paperback, 9781555972684, 80pp.)
Publication Date: February 1998
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Winner of the 1997 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets
In Donkey Gospel, his second collection of poems, Hoagland's generous effervescence and a jujitsu cleverness sparkle through line after line confronting negotiation and compromise, gender and culture, sex and rock music, sons and lovers, truth and beauty, and so forth. From the boy who speaks only in "Kung Fu" dialogue to the guy who visits a lesbian bar and sees his mother, this often funny and always thoughtful book of poems offers fresh, surprisingly frank meditations on the credentials for contemporary manhood.
Tony Hoagland's first book, Sweet Ruin, was awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and the Zacharis Award from Ploughshares at Emerson College. A member of the writing faculty at the University of Pittsburg, Hoagland has also received grants from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation.
"An absolutely refreshing compound of playfulness and depth . . . There's no warmed-over theory on this menu, and no guilt casserole, either: [Donkey Gospel is] an unabashedly spicy book. But if one is seduced into the book by the wildness of its flavors, one finishes by loving its substance."—Heather McHugh
"There's an underlying sweetness to the poems, and a gratitude for having survived so much human fecklessness (including, of course, one's own), and these complicate the poems' anger and puzzlement and rumple their severe surfaces. The resulting mixture has much of the complexity of a personality that willingly weathers its own perplexities and experiences, rather than striking a pose of competence and trying to ride out the storm."—William Matthews
"If the current flush of identity politics has you bored beyond belief, you might look for a deeper and truer sense of identity and belief in Donkey Gospel. It's a powerful second book, and leaves one wanting more."—Harvard Review
"In Donkey Gospel, Hoagland's puzzlement is palpable, and yet his effervescent cleverness and original twists of phrase, sometimes aphoristic in philosophical content, ring true. His poetry of cultural irony, contemporary sexuality, and the absurdities of the rock-and-roll generation leave us with a satisfied feeling of having ridden out a storm."—Ruminator Review
"[A] series of autobiographical poems about being a guy, from backslapping tales of sexual exploits to the dark and dirty truths of male animalism . . . Apologetic for being cerebral, Hoagland pays homage to Auden and D. H. Lawrence in poems that recognize one's powerful vocabulary and the other's ability to fight, and fuck, and crow in prose."—Kirkus Reviews