Award-winning poet, University of Houston professor and author of four poetry collections Tony Hoagland visits Teatro Paraguas on Sunday for a reading of works from his collection, alongside select pieces by others. In the meantime, he muses on his relationship with poetry and the role the artform has in society.
What originally sparked your interest in poetry?
When I screwed up my life in multiple ways, poetry was always there. For a long time, relationships didn't work for me, I dropped in and out of school, family members died...In a time when culture is disintegrated and there are no grownups or grownup institutions left in our culture that communicate values, poetry is like a bottle that washes up on your beach, it's a pretty common metaphor, and it's got something you've been looking for inside it. So, I think it contains this intimate testimony from other souls who have undergone this difficult thing we call living or existence. And then sort of an added benefit is that poetry is, in a lot of ways, like stand-up comedy, too. It's very quick, and it's always changing directions.
What poems are you looking forward to reading?
I'm looking forward to reading some of my new poems, which are from a forthcoming collection called Application for Release from the Dream. And I'll read a lot of my sort of satirical, political poems. Poems are able to be both political and personal at once, or to be, you know, sort of funny and dark at the same time.
What do you hope people to take out of the reading?
What people get from poetry readings is pretty interesting. It's different from reading from a book because when a poem's being read out loud, you don't have any text to refer to and it's sort of happening inside you. You don't know what's going to happen next, so it requires a lot of alertness. But what it does often when I listen to poems, it takes you on a kind of roller coaster ride, and that, in some ways, often drives you into deep, reflective parts of yourself. So there's that, and in addition, poetry uses language with more virtuousity, in more challenging and more entertaining ways than the speech we use on a regular basis. It respects your intelligence and your capacity for complex feelings. It kind of takes you there.