Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NOON UNTIL NIGHT by Richard Hoffman

Richard Hoffman


NOON UNTIL NIGHT by Richard Hoffman ( Barrow Street Press $16.95)

Review by Doug Holder

When I read the poetry collection “Noon Until Night” by Richard Hoffman, I said to myself, “Damn, this is one wise dude.” I think Hoffman has a way of reporting back to us through his own scars, displaying the bullshit we will encounter, and then he tells us in an avuncular way, “ Move on.”

Hoffman is a Senior Writer in Residence at Emerson College in Boston, the author of two memoirs and several collections of poetry. I will be teaching his harrowing and artistically rendered memoir of childhood abuse “ Half the House” at Endicott College this fall.

I think to a great extent we try to figure out the puzzle of our fathers in order to understand ourselves. In the poem, “ A Face in the Ceiling”, Hoffman pens a wonderful paragraph (among others)—a scene-- a set-- that captures the complexities, the sorrows of a father, and his need and attempt for transcendence. And there is a boy beside him who intuitively senses this, and tries to bring him out of his malaise,

as he was in my earliest memories, home
from “ the steel” where he laid track in the yards,
sprawled on the floor of the living room, spent,
in his boxer shorts in front of an oscillating fan
that dinged at intervals at some point in its sweep
( I swear I can hear it now. I can hear it!)
I lay next to him, and he asked if I could see
the faces in the cracked and water-stained ceiling.

And in his title poem, “Noon Until Night”, Hoffman gives a sort of road map for life. It is for those on the first half of the roller coaster ride-- all the way to where that fat lady is about to sing her swan song.

One of us is going to have to rise and set out, then,
with no assurance of arrival, nor of any welcome
if we make it there where we guessed the new to be,

just like the old days, in leaky boats, through storms
toward a hunch, toward what we've been told of by others
whose credibility is vouched for only by their scars

and the cohesion and agreement of their stories, though
we know they're not beyond a bit of fun at our expense
and always want to be remunerated for intelligence,

so we have to weigh, still, the tone, the spirit if you will,
with which of course is offered to us, at the same time
we have everything to lose, friends, and no time to waste.

Hoffman is able to find joy and consolation a midst the carnage of this world .He tells us to seize the day...life is comically and inevitably short. In some ways this book is a primer for life, that can be referred to as you pass through its dangerous shoals.

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