Saturday, October 14, 2006
I've been reading in Tony Hoagland's new book of essays, Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poery and Craft. I'd seen many of these over the years in APR and Poetry and elsewhere, and it's nice to have them all collected in one place (some, perhaps, revised?). He's a very accessible, straightforward essay writer, with a light touch and a good sense of humor and the absurd (just like his poems!). Here's a quote from his essay about the "Dialectical Use of Tone:"
"Tone is such an ambient, fluid, and internal quality, one constructed from so many shifting elements (diction, music, pacing, image, syntax), that to define it is an elusive, probably impossible task. The baseline definition that one encounters most often is that tone is 1) the attitude of a writer toward her subject or 2) of a speaker toward her audience. But even in such a general definition one sees omissions: What about the speaker's attitude toward the speaker? What about the speaker's attitude about her way of speaking?"
He then goes on to do a close reading of the layers of tone in Louise Gluck's poem "Purple Bathing Suit," demonstrating how "tone conducts plot." It's all really very well done.
Other essays explore topics such as image, compositional strategies, materialism, and "meanness." Highly recommended.