Tony Hoffman Tag

I don’t recall where I first encountered the works of Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro  (1893-1948)—most likely in the introduction to a collection by one of his contemporaries who came to overshadow him (Neruda or Borges). In America, at least among English-speaking poets, his work is largely forgotten; I don’t remember his name ever coming up in a conversation I didn’t initiate. But he is still well loved by people with an interest in Spanish-language poetry. A century ago, he initiated a literary movement known as Creationism (no relation to the term’s current religious context), which holds that a poem is something new, created by the author for its own sake, not to act as commentary or to please either author or audience. He wrote of the created poem, “Nothing in the external world resembles it; it makes real what does not exist, that is to say, it turns itself into reality. It creates the wonderful and gives it a life of its own. It creates extraordinary situations that can never exist in the objective world, that they will have to exist in the poem so that they exist somewhere.”

I first encountered Bill Kushner’s work at a reading at the Poetry Project a few years ago. That night, he read from In Sunsetland With You, a book of poems that emanate from young Billy’s relationship with old Abe Lincoln, poems that, with a language of grace and humor, narrate the misadventures of a lonely, horny, eternally innocent, old, sad, and joyous spirit through the wars, highway-watching nights, and skinny-dippings of Sunsetland. What struck me most about these poems, and what continues to strike me through all of Bill's work, is the delicate balance between wrenching and buoying the heart. Bill’s poems are like walking through the world with one’s eyes open, with the workaday bullshit stripped away; he reads the raw Whitman writ on every street corner or fragment of memory, real or imagined.  Over the course of eight books, Bill has rambled through the streets of Sunsetland and New York, across sonnets and daily diary poems, lustily crusing through time present and past, Billie Holiday records, beefcake babies, always in a mood of love, love, love. Yes, love appears on almost every page and it sure feels real, flapping in the face and the mind and the blood of a humble human life.

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