Sunday Jun 23

AllenHoey Allen Hoey has published six collections of poems and three novels; Once Upon a Time at Blanche’s is his most recent collection of poems. His 2008 collection of poems, Country Music, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His other books include A Fire in the Cold House of Being (selected by Galway Kinnell for the 1985 Camden Poetry Award), What Persists, Provençal Light & Other Poems, and The Precincts of Paradise, all poetry collections, and Chasing the Dragon: A Novel about Jazz, Voices Beyond the Dead, and On the Demon’s Trail, a mystery.  His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous journals, among them The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review. His poem “A Thousand Prostrations” was included in Essential Zen (HarperCollins) and another poem, “Essay on Snow,” was included in The Best American Spiritual Writing of 2004 (Houghton Mifflin). In 1993 he accepted the Precepts as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist. He was 2001 Bucks County Poet Laureate and currently serves as Director of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program. He received a 2002 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. He lives with his wife, Debra, and their dogs in an 18th century stone cottage on an old horse farm with a view of Bowman’s Hill.


At the Grave of Ezra Pound
It’s nothing special. A granite marker
set in the manicured grass, a few
flowers. The waterbus was crowded—
tourists, mostly, though few spoke
English. February wind blew
the chilly spume like spikes, a chill
that lasted under lowering skies
like the dark swirls in the glass
blown on Murano. I’d like to say
that thoughts of the great Modernist
revolution pummeled across my mind.
I’d like to say that the complex
torment of politics and art replayed
itself while I knelt to contemplate
the weathered letters, “EZRA POVND,”
but how long can you look at a chunk
of stone embedded in the earth?
O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord:
praise him and magnify him forever.
—The Book of Common Prayer
O, how it used to fall—let it fall again,
tumbling from the heavens, flake upon
flake, the entire field spread
white, white—the trees cocooned, the pond
frozen through, shrouded with snow, the frogs and fish
dormant, frozen, yet the life remains within them;
frost and cold tamp down the sap, the trees
rear above the snowy meadow like ghost-trunks
of their former selves, branches rattle in the breeze
that spins the flakes a moment after they light,
then eases them down again, where they
become lost in the whole—branches reach toward
the lowering clouds, imploring
sun to shine through, the glare of snow
cold, like moonlight, like starlight, the way
the sun might seem in the icy vacancy of space.
For now, the snowfall blanks the farthest
horizon, clamps down the sky and draws everything
near, closing in the distance and narrowing
the field of reference—the fields lost
beyond the nearest clump of bush
marking where the meadow slopes down,
now a white desolation. Treetops
rise like Babel’s tower into the heavy
fall of flakes, as though the upper branches
shook off the flakes like crystalline seedpods,
the least glimmer of life forming beneath
the frost-caked bark. Yet I don’t feel
oppressed but elated, as if each swirling flake
were a fragment of self spiraling in the wind,
freed to fly and light, lift with the breeze
and settle into satisfying, undifferentiated
coalescence. The mind still as the fish
enfolded in the ice-choked pond, each breath
so slight that the water doesn’t show a single ripple.
Sublimation around the hygroscopic nuclei
far above where I stand. In the midst of the drifting flakes
I stick out my tongue and wait for a coalition of crystals
to land, melt, tasteless except for cold, the small
particle of dust at the flake’s heart too slight
to leave a taste. Such a meager thing—jot, tittle,
iota of massa confusa—to generate the immense
variety of flakes, the tiny thing we fail to see
when beauty drops around us, the black
encased in white. The blackening sky, the whitening
air. Cold and snow, layers of rime, but the heat
wills its way, up and through, the final
blossoming red. Let it. Again.
About Once Upon a Time at Blanche’s, Allen Hoey’s most recent collection:
The first poems in this collection were included in Country Music. They take place in a fictionalized version of a dive bar where I used to go when I was an undergraduate at a state college in the North Country of New York State. Most of the poems are conversations between customers at the bar, a mix of farmers and mill workers. Of the first group, poet Nathalie Anderson noted, that the dialogues are “half scatology, half philosophy.” That same conversational mix of tragedy, mishap, and humorous half-acceptance continues through the greatly expanded sequence, including poems about birthing cows, an over-flowed septic tank, an act of vengeance, and an elderly lesbian farmer. Many of the poems develop from scriptural epigraphs and one mimics the form of the catechism. Poet Barron Wormser writes of the collection: “What Hoey delivers in poem after poem is a compound of down-home American wit and woe, the insight of those who have lost the game but whose brooding powers of analysis and narrative, abetted as they are by shots and beers, remain keen. Nothing is hopeless if it can be spoken about much less turned into art. The words of the various speakers are now torrential and now terse but always illustrative of the fulcrum between oblivion and awareness that many a barstool is perched on.” Nancy White, director of the Washington Prize, notes: “It’s a rowdy book, a tragic book, a down-and-dirty redemption of a book, about the agonies we suffer, the hilarities and kindnesses that keep us going, the escapes we seek, the silence that can trap us, and the listeners who make that shadow of difference between despair and meaning.” And Hayden Carruth comments: “Allen Hoey has found the language he needs, the movement of rhythm and syntax, the phrasing: he has found his style…mature, supple, functional, poetic, and memorable, all that a poetic style should be. The same hard-won maturity shows in his choice of topics and how he handles them. I see a very experienced dramatic and narrative sense at work in these poems.”