Sunday, September 03, 2017

Interview with poet Richard Hoffman: A poet who journeys from 'Noon Until Night'

Richard Hoffman

Interview with poet Richard Hoffman: A poet who journeys from 'Noon Until Night'

 Richard Hoffman has published four volumes of poetry, Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Sheila Motton Award from The New England Poetry Club; Emblem; and his new collection Noon until Night. His other books include the celebrated Half the House: a Memoir, published in a 20th Anniversary Edition last year, the 2014 memoir Love & Fury, and the story collection Interference and Other Stories. His work, both prose and verse, appears in such journals as Agni, Barrow Street, Consequence, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, Poetry, Witness and elsewhere. A former Chair of PEN New England, he is Senior Writer in Residence at Emerson College in Boston. I talked with him about his new collection of verse "Noon Until Night," on my Somerville Media TV show " Poet to Poet Writer to Writer."

By Doug Holder

DH: In your title poem “ Noon Until Night” you consent  to being, “ One ring in the river in an unending rain.”  In this point in your life have you reached a certain contentment, acceptance—are you just one ring on the river drifting downstream?

RH: I don't think I rest content. I have reached a “harbor.” For a long time there was no harbor—in that sense maybe you are right. But I will move on just like any ship is bound to do.

The seeds of that harbor were in my books “ Gold Star Road, “ Emblem” and other works. Things have become more focused for me. It takes time for that to come clear.

DH: You use an epigraph form Yates, “Grant me an old man's frenzy/ Myself I must remake,” in your poem, “ The Wave.” How does this reference the poem?

RH: That epigraph is in the voice of my father. I imagined what he would have said if he was able to articulate it. I wrote in the poem, “How does a swell become a wave? What pushes up from under water?/ Tell me; this tired body is all I have."  It's what he might have been thinking in his final years. How can he recapture that energy at this late stage in the game?

These lyrical dramatic monologues help the reader step into the character. They don't become poems until someone speaks them. Poetry is like a song—it is something to listen to. The poem is like a musical score—you have to read it a few times, before you can sing or say it.

DH: The title poem “Noon Until Night” in some ways can be viewed as a primer for life.  Your take?

RH: Well—for the second half of life. It is about waking up in the middle of your life. In the second half of your life you are burning off what isn't essential—painful. The interesting thing here—and I am letting out state secrets-- is that the poem is based on the hours  of twelve noon to midnight-- and each poem starts with some reference to a number—a point of time during those twelve hours. And this poem came to me ( like the others)--I just didn't come up with this insight—the poem pulled it out of me. It is an engine that goes down the track and you have to keep up with it. You have to go into the well of language—and your understanding of language. You have to let go of your ego. It is sort of like a musician falling in love with a chord, and making it into a song. You are not alone -- you are working with music.

DH: In your poem " The Ghost" it deals with you in the Dublin Airport--seeing what you imagine as a ghost of the late poet Sarah Hannah--who was a colleague of yours at Emerson College in Boston and died tragically young.  Do you view this as an actual ghost--the supernatural--or a symbol of something else?

RH: That is a huge question. Is there such a thing? Or is it the fact that I saw her in a group of people--or someone like her?  I asked myself those questions at first--but then the everyday perceptions come in. It is natural to say, " That can't be Sarah--she's dead." So the natural thing to do is to correct yourself. What if you didn't correct yourself and took it seriously? I was thrilled with the idea that it was her--"Why I am thinking of this person even after she is dead?  I examined it for meaning. This is more interesting for me--the supernatural is too comic book for my taste. It is too easy. Poetry isn't easy.

" Noon Until Night" is available on

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