Turn Up the Ocean: Poems

Graywolf. Jul. 2022. 80p. ISBN 9781644450925. pap. $16. POETRY
Assembled by his wife after his death in 2018, the poems in Hoagland’s eighth and final collection (after Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God) were written in the shadow of incurable cancer (“the Ellis Island of the hospital waiting room”), but that did not diminish the poet’s characteristic candor and trenchant wit. Aphoristically and at times acerbically philosophical (“pain doesn’t speak/ in complete sentences”; “Belief is not a requirement to go on living”), Hoagland recognized the insufficiency of learned hopelessness while acknowledging that the mechanisms of the outer world (natural disasters, fatal illnesses, global capitalism) lie beyond individual human control. To live is to experience randomness, a series “of unpredictable patterns/ in human weather,” but for a poet the urge to explore “how to say/ these thousand mysteries that we live among” is reason enough to go on living.
VERDICT Hoagland’s poetry earns the oft-misused adjective uncompromising for its directness in the face of reality’s “blithering whirlwind of wonder.” Though one wishes his life had not ended so soon, this collection will stand as a fitting capstone to a stellar poetic career.
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