Sep. 20, 2006

And The Men

by Tony Hoagland

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Poem: "And The Men" by Tony Hoagland from Hard Rain: A Chapbook. © Hollyridge Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

And The Men

want back in:
all the Dougs and the Michaels, the Darnells, the Erics and Josés,
they're standing by the off-ramp of the interstate
holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR RELATIONSHIP.

Their love-mobiles are rusty.
Their Shaggin' Wagons are up on cinderblocks.
They're reading self-help books and practicing abstinence,
taking out Personals ads that say
          "Good listener would like to meet lesbian ladies,
                                       for purposes of friendship only."

In short, they've changed their minds, the men:
they want another shot at the collaborative enterprise.
Want to do fifty-fifty housework and childcare;
They want commitment renewal weekends and couples therapy.

Because being a man was finally too sad—
In spite of the perks, the lifetime membership benefits.
And it got old,
telling the joke about the hooker and the priest

at the company barbeque, praising the vintage of the beer and
           punching the shoulders of a bud
                in a little overflow of homosocial bonhomie—
Always holding the fear inside
                         like a tipsy glass of water—

Now they're ready to talk, really talk about their feelings,
in fact they're ready to make you sick with revelations of
                         their vulnerability—
A pool of testosterone is spreading from around their feet,
it's draining out of them like radiator fluid,
like history, like an experiment that failed.

So here they come on their hands and knees, the men:
Here they come. They're really beaten. No tricks this time.
                No fine print.
Please, they're begging you. Look out.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the newly appointed poet laureate of the United States, Donald Hall, (books by this author) born in New Haven, Connecticut (1928). He's the author of many collections of poetry, including The Dark Houses (1958), Kicking the Leaves: Poems (1978), and Willow Temple: New and Selected Poems (2003).

As a boy, he spent summers on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, and he often listened to his grandfather recite long narrative poems like "Casey at the Bat." It was one of those summers at his grandfather's house that Donald Hall began writing his own first poems at a tiny desk in the room where he slept. His first literary hero was Edgar Allan Poe. Hall said, "I wanted to be mad, addicted, obsessed, haunted, and cursed; I wanted to have eyes that burned like coals, profoundly melancholy, profoundly attractive."

When he was 16, he met Robert Frost at a writers' conference, and while he was in college he met the elder poets T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Dylan Thomas. He said that meeting professional poets gave him the idea that being a poet was something that you worked at steadily, for a long time.

His collection White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006 came out this year. He was named the poet laureate this June.

Donald Hall said, "I try every day to write great poetry—as I tried when I was 14. ... What else is there to do?"

It's the birthday of the muckraking novelist Upton Sinclair, (books by this author) born in Baltimore, Maryland (1878). He's best known as the author of The Jungle (1906), a novel about the meatpacking industry. He wrote the novel in protest of the meatpacking workers' horrific working conditions. Many of them were injured and killed on the job and no one seemed to care. The Jungle (1906) made Sinclair famous. President Theodore Roosevelt invited him to the White House to discuss his book. But instead of enacting legislation to protect the workers in the packinghouses, Congress passed legislation to protect the safety of the meat for consumers.

It's the birthday of one of the greatest editors of the twentieth century, Maxwell Perkins, born in New York City (1884). He joined the editorial staff of Charles Scribner's Sons as a young man, and early in his career he acquired a manuscript by a writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald. When This Side of Paradise came out in 1920, it sold more than 50,000 copies, which was almost unheard of for a first novel at the time.

Perkins went on to edit authors such as Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. When Wolfe turned in the manuscript for Of Time and the River, it was more than 3,000 pages long, and the pages weren't numbered. Perkins spent the next year cutting and editing. They fought a lot about the manuscript, but Wolfe was ultimately satisfied. Wolfe eventually left all his unfinished manuscripts to Perkins in his will.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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