Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

taught by nuns

I was reading about lyric essays. I think my essays are lyric essays and not just because they are disorganized. I only learned the term when I went back to school. People do things and don’t even know those things have names, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t know what we’re doing. I kept coming across the name of a particular lyric essayist and I looked her up. The first thing I saw was a controversy about a poem by Tony Hoagland, which she considered racist. I read that poem. First of all, it was in a collection called What Narcissism Means to Me. Which should give the reader some kind of clue. Second, who is to say that the narrator of a poem is the author? Really! And THIRD the poem seemed to me to be playing with ideas about race, but that doesn’t make it racist. And IF the poem is racist, which it isn’t—it is racist against whites.

I was taught by nuns. I learned to hate the censorship of thought. Give me a government that simply makes laws against expression rather than the insidious self-censor, fearing the wrath of the easily offended. Anyway, regardless, it was a poem that moved you, even if you are not a poet, even if you don’t know poetry but only what you respond to.

Tony Hoagland has a Wikipedia page. And Tony Hoagland is born on my exact birthday. Tony Hoagland grew up in the south on military bases just like me. He picked fruit in the west and so did I. Winters, California, apples. He dropped out of college and hey, me too. Only he went back and is teaching at Warren Wilson and I just now went back, decades later, and wish I could to go to Warren Wilson. Chuck said I should write to Tony Hoagland and tell him this. I said no, but I will blog about it.

Read Tony’s poem and tell me what you think.

Categories: Catholic Church, poetry, school, writing

Tags: , , , , ,

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