From “The Edge of the Frame”, by Tony Hoagland
Joseph Cornell collected souvenirs of places he was miserable in,
which pretty much was everywhere he went.
Churchill felt afraid on stairs. Terrible migraines
of Virginia Woolf entered her skull and would not be evicted.
I read biographies because I want to know how people suffered
in the past; how they endured, and is it different, now, for us?
This bright but gentle morning, like the light of childhood;
then, because of the antidepressant, day by day,
the gradual return of curiosity.
What is a human being? What does it mean?
It seems a crucial thing to know, but no one does.
“You will conquer obstacles,” that’s what the fortune cookie said;
first I crumbled it up, then went back later to retrieve it from the trash.
Joseph Cornell : Untitled (The Hotel Eden)
c. 1945 (140 Kb); Construction, 15 1/8 x 15 3/4 x 4 3/4 in; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
“The Edge of the Frame” is the opening poem in Hoagland’s new book of poems called Application for Release of the Dream.
This is what I love about good poetry: Great poetry handles simple accounts and philosophical questions side by side, good poetry puts the most essential and unanswerable questions out in the world, for us, the readers, to stumble upon. Poetry can make even the most ordinary of days into a hunt after evasive answers.
Great poetry points out that life, for each and every one of us, could be seen as a never-ending, slippery quest for meaning.
In the opening of Application for Release from the Dream, Hoagland quotes James Hillman saying: “It is hard to drop from the self into the soul.” Isn’t this, Hillmans words, just an incredibly beautiful way of trying to grasp what’s at stake?