Tony Hoagland's zany poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He is American poetry's hilarious 'high priest of irony', a wisecracker and a risktaker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushes the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.
Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty is his first new collection since What Narcissism Means to Me: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2005). The poems ñ and title ñ try to make sense of the situation of the individual in our time, and in America in particular ñ Hoagland's obsessive main subject. They worry over how to preserve a sense of self and values, connectedness and cohesiveness, in an era of market-driven culture, dazzling but toxic entertainment, and degraded and degrading idiocies cultivated by mass culture.
"With this new collection, he confirms his place as one of the most vital and engaged poets working on either side of the Atlantic."
Hugh Thomson, The Independent
"He belongs to that wagon-circle of American poets who believe in a 'common reader'Ö Hoagland is a poet of a ragged, half-satirical, half-lyrical intensity. If Billy Collins is Updike, Hoagland is Salinger, or perhaps Holden CaulfieldÖ making us think we know the ground we are on, then showing us that we don'tÖ For me, he not only pulls the rug from under my feet when it comes to the moral complacencies and platitudes that I don't notice I live by, he does the same with my given poetic certainties."
Henry Shukman, Poetry London
"Hilarious, searing poems that break your heart so fast you hardly notice you're standing knee deep in a pool of implications. They are of this moment, right now ñ the present that we're already homesick for."
"Tony Hoagland's high zaniness always makes us laugh, but his real substance issues from the personal, aesthetic and moral risks he invokes in poem after poemÖ What Narcissism Means to Me shows us our age and how great poetry is still possible."
"A Late Night Show of poetry hosted by a high priest of ironyÖ These poems are very funny, but they are also sad, sharp-edged and ambitiousÖ confiding, consistently irreverent and, in a way, comforting."
Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times
"Hoagland's central subject is the self, specifically, a prickly, grandiose American masculine poetic self, or to be more specific still, what the author ruefully labels in one poem 'a government called Tony Hoagland'Ö there is something refreshing about his willingness to expose his crummier impulses."
Emily Nussbaum, New York Times
"It's hard to imagine any aspect of contemporary American life that couldn't make its way into the writing of Tony Hoagland or a word in common or formal usage he would shy away from. He is a poet of risk: he risks wild laughter in poems that are totally heartfelt, poems you want to read out loud to anyone who needs to know the score and even more so to those who think they know the score. The framework of his writing is immense, almost as large as the tarnished nation he wandered into under the star of poetry."
Jackson Poetry Prize judges' citation