Monday, June 11, 2007


Went to a wonderful poetry reading at Hugo House last night. James Hoch was in town to read from his new book Miscreants. I'm not sure I had ever heard of him before, but Rick B invited me, and when I googled the book came up with the following and had to go:

"At the heart of this collection is an intense rendering of a young boy's murder and the lives of those who endured it. Reminiscent of the work of B. H. Fairchild and Larry Levis, Miscreants investigates memory, family, violence, and the transition from boyhood to adolescence in the decaying, working-class towns of New Jersey and Pennsylvania."

James read very well. He talked a bit about the title, and how it means, roughly, "mis-belief," and how it refers to the mis-behaving kids and teens in the book, the "mis-made" children who are born with some kind of deformity (who are then in glass jars at the Mutter Museum), as well as to the sadistic killer in our midst. The book is really good, and the long poem for Bobby Almand is devastating and beautiful. Here is a taste:

from Bobby Almand

When the neighbor kid found him
covered with sycamore

his jeans were unbuttoned
his underwear disarranged

pulled just below his hips
pulled, they said, back up.

Someone must've gone to the trouble
must've taken time, as if

after entering and leaving him
shirtless, facedown in a ditch,

it would've been indecent.

(pg 47)

Only eleven lines, and the whole horrific episode is indelible in my mind. I think it is the wonderful details, the calm simple everyday language (including all the contractions). It conjures a child's or teen's voice, but through the lens of adulthood.

Everyone has a soul, our nun tells us,
which upon death leaves the body.

Exspirito, she tells us, and when we
don't get it . . . as in exhale. The one

who floats possumed in the pool,
Possum Boy, lifts his head, smirking.

. . .

(pg 63)


There is much more to the book than the Bobby Almand poem: other deaths and traumas, some light-hearted poems about Native American kids playing basketball, mini-mart sausage rolls, dogs with shock-collars, and more. It's a good read. Highly recommended.


C. Dale said...

It is among the currently recommended books section on my blog.

Suzanne said...

I loved his first book and now have this one on my wish list. Thanks for the recap!

Oliver de la Paz said...

Alas, I couldn't make the drive down. I SO wanted to hear him. I'm glad you enjoyed the reading.