Work Title: Grace
Work Author(s): John Hodgen
University of Pittsburgh Press
66 pages, Softcover $14.00
Reviewer: Duncan Sprattmoran
In a world saturated with mass-produced glossy images designed to catch one's attention, the artist, of all creators, has an obligation to present his vision with a particularly lucid authority. John Hodgen's poems countermand the dictates of mass culture that impress upon readers images of airbrushed and Photoshopped perfection. Hodgen's assembled images of the common aspects of life---dust, rusty tin roofs, the crescent moon, his neighbor walking in her yard "like Emily Dickinson / alone in the world," reflect the sublime sense of grace one can attain by paying close attention to the most familiar things: "a slender roan horse feeds under its basilica of broken branches / because he knows that is the place / where the soft tufts of grass / taste the sweetest."
Grace, the winner of the 2005 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, awarded by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, celebrates the world at one's doorstep: "Christmas coming on, and down Mt. Auburn Street they come, hells bells, the hustlers, / bustlers, errant lovers, shopping bags in tow, a woman in a full-length gray parka and a tam, / a jogger, nonplussed, in red shorts, a harried businessman, sputtering, howling." The poems stride deliberately through the American vein, moving from elegiac lyrical laments about family, to long-lined riffs springing from the jazz of happenstance.
"This Moon, These Fifty Years" is a traditional reflection, the poet's memory of his father: "He'd...