It is hard to drop from the self into the soul

From “The Edge of the Frame”, by Tony Hoagland
            (an excerpt)


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?

Tony Hoagland is the author of five volumes of poetry: Application for Release from the DreamUnincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty; Sweet Ruin, winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry; Donkey Gospel, winner of the James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets; and What Narcissism Means to Me. He is also the author of two collections of essays about poetry, Real Sofistakashun and Twenty Poems That Could Save America, as well the chapbook Don’t Tell Anyone. His poems and critical essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and Ploughshares. He is the winner of the 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize, awarded by Poets & Writers magazine.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. A nice reminder for me to go back to Hillman’s work, which I haven’t read in a long, long time. He was a major influence of Thomas Moore (author of Care of the Soul).

    I’ve been mulling on frames and edges myself lately.

  2. Sigrun says:

    Thank you, I din’t know about “Care of the Soul”. Are you just mulling, or also writing?

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