Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God

Graywolf. Jun. 2018. 88p. ISBN 9781555978075. pap. $16. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarMulti-award-winning poet and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Hoagland (What Narcissism Means to Me) brings both humor and grief to a stirring poetic discourse. The poems reveal a remarkable mix of simple diction and documentary detail linked together with dark humor and sarcasm: "I have a girlfriend who freely expressed her opinion/ that people born in Bangladesh had probably incarnated there/ to work out their issue with poverty." The poet ruminates on themes from love to alienation while also navigating the cultural estrangement we experience in modern life. Poetry here is a form of sorrowful awakening to one's finality and an acknowledgement of life's powerful flow: "who would have imagined?/ Me in the hospital, with Leonard Cohen/ and still too ignorant to die." Hoagland creates domestic settings in most of his poems and uses them wittily to stage his quest for insight and deeper meaning. The minor details of daily life are significant and used as an embodiment of life rather than mere notations of it.
VERDICT Hoagland imbues smooth narrative with irony and surreal humor to deliver an especially rewarding book. Recommended for all poetry readers.
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