Saturday, November 19, 2011

The American Eye by Eric Hoffman

The American Eye
by Eric Hoffman
Copyright 2011 by Dos Madres Press inc.
Dos Madres Press
Loveland OH 45140
Softbound, 71 pages, no price
ISBN 978-1-933675-65-7

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Found poetry has become a favorite tool for a number of poets. Search through writings of those who not always closely associate with poetry and find in their prose something
akin to poetry and use as poetry. The next best thing is to find someone’s writing and make them into your own poetry.

Eric Hoffman has succeeded admirably with this book in which Hoffman lends his voice and vision to both Ralph Waldo Emerson and his godson William James. In the first set
of poems, “Emerson in Europe,” we find him looking at he ocean, thinking back:

My eye is American.
Like a chemist assembling substances
I bring myself to sea
In search of affinities –

The bubble –
By its birthright – expands –
& my American eye
Is like a child’s again

Later, in Malta, Hoffman envisions Emerson’s view of native women, adding a touch of humanity to his otherwise staid image as a man of the cloth, man of Victorian sensibilities:

A few beautiful faces in the dancing crowd
& a beautiful face is worth going far to see

That which is finest in beauty is moral
& the attraction of a long descended maiden

Is a sort of wild virtue, wild & fragrant
As the violets that surprise the mind
Meeting divinity amidst flowers and trifles

The initial section of the book, therefore, deals with not only Hoffman’s interpretations
of Emerson’s journals, but his poetic view of the emotional Emerson. We also see
Italy through words culled from Emerson’s writings and transposed into the poetic. For example:

In the Sistine Chapel
To see the Pope
Bless his palms
& hear his choir
Chaunt the passion

The second part of the book is entitles “The Vast Practical Engine” in which Hoffman presents various thoughts on philosophy of our innermost self:

what are the physics
of violence? or

are we the embodiment
of need, our tenderness

merely an apparition

to appetite’s defeat?

“There is no certainty,
only those who are certain”

that the heart is small

that the world
cradles and destroys

that the triumph of breathing
and buries

In another poem (10.) we find:

nothing is so precise
as imagination
but what demon

hides in the most
precise equations
what infinitesimally

small loss occurs
at that invisible edge
maps the distance

between the mind of God
and the limits of
absolute reason

There is nothing new in Hoffman’s inventions of past writings, however, what he has accomplished is a deep reading of many concepts, the poetry more philosophical and cobbled into ideas that will make readers think twice, go back to the book to discover new ideas, theories, philosophies and changes which he has superbly succeeded in conveying.

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