Born on November 19, 1953, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Tony Hoagland is the author of witty, poignant poems that comment on contemporary American life and culture.
His poetry collection 2003, What Narcissism Means to Me, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry,and a fellowship to the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His poems and criticism have appeared in such publications as Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, Threepenny Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Indiana Review, American Poetry Review, and Harvard Review.
In 2002, the American Academy of Arts and Letters praised the poet’s work with a citation stating, “Tony Hoagland’s imagination ranges thrillingly across manners, morals, sexual doings, kinds of speech both lyrical and candid, intimate as well as wild.”
It’s so clear tonight, and calm,
that if I stepped outside,
and raised my head, I imagine
I could see the silver
chest of Orion,
the hummingbird tattoo upon
the outside of its thigh.
And further back, the unfathomable
dark, which makes it possible for him
to draw his bow,
and gives him room to choose
a target for the night.
So I remember the luxury of what
I’ve had the poor taste in the past
to call, sometimes, our loneliness,
which is the absence of others
who have left us stranded here,
with only oxygen to breathe
and nothing more than time
to breathe it in.
And I honor, for a moment, the million
things forgotten, the things
which have so graciously
forgotten me—the bulging
saddlebags of history, the myriad, self-cancelling
blunders and eurekas
of fathers and mothers
of fathers and mothers and fathers—
who have handed down something
of tremendous importance
by handing down nothing
but plenty of quiet and dark.
And in the fields of sky above our houses,
hieroglyphics, open to
our own interpretation.