In People Once Real, award-winning poet Richard Hoffman writes about history’s cascading traumas and the resilience needed to survive them. By turns dissident, angry, tender, elegiac, and bracing, these are poems that help us see where we’ve been and where we need to go, by showing us where we are. (50 words)
The poems of Richard Hoffman’s People Once Real concern themselves with history’s cascading traumas and the resilience needed to survive them. According to former Maine poet laureate Baron Wormser, “Hoffman is part of an honorable tradition that includes Vallejo and Tennyson, poets who met grief head on, but never gave up on the lyric gift that is the beautiful, unreasoning heart of the loving life-force….” And Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet, has written, “William Blake meets Walt Whitman in Hoffman, a voice of unparalleled lyricism that is as utterly intimate and specific as it is wisely oracular and mystical.”
Praise for People Once Real
In People Once Real Richard Hoffman, very much a later-day Jacob, wrestles for the souls of lost souls, himself very much included. This task is arduous, strenuous; the stakes speak to whether honesty has any chance in a world that has sold itself to various glowing forms of emptiness and cant, to say nothing of predatory malevolence. Poets don’t “win.” Hoffman is part of an honorable tradition that includes Vallejo and Tennyson, poets who met grief head on, but never gave up on the lyric gift that is the beautiful, unreasoning heart of the loving life- force, a force sadly traduced again and again, as Hoffman eloquently attests, but still adamant, even if, at this point in time, its vitality feels tragic. This is a genuinely powerful book. – Baron Wormser
There’s something burning at the center of Richard Hoffman’s new collection of poetry, “People Once Real” (Lily Poetry Review). Fury, for one thing. For the children killed with guns; for the dark and crumbling chaos of this American moment; for injustices and violations both widespread and personal. Grief, for another. For what and who’s been lost (“I miss my brothers”); for innocence; for a navigable sense of the future, “when clarity remains at least as hard and/ honesty much harder.” The flames of grief are less white-hot than fury’s, and more the sparking tangle of electrical wires snaking beneath the floor. “If you’re not a prisoner, you’re a guard,/ walking the catwalk, weighted with keys.” And so how to conceive of a future in this grave state? “Let’s leave metaphor for another day./ Here we sit facing one another, our knees/ touching, hands joined, frightened, learning/ what we need, what each of us will need to do.” The book burns, too, with love and the hope — however wearied, however tattered — that it brings. That hope, that glimmering sense that maybe something more or better is possible, raises the question of what one can do. “What is the word for the way/ the starling’s sheen and the carapace/ of the Japanese beetle seem alike?/ And if I find it will the dying stop?” – Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Sunday Globe
People Once Real redefines elegy. Elegy for the present of our failing democracy, our failing planet, our failing bodies. Elegy for the futures we had imagined would be. Elegy for the past of our forgotten lessons, for our dead that we must praise or forgive to finally let some part of ourselves die. Elegy for the self that ultimately leads Hoffman toward the grace of love that saves us all from emotional oblivion. William Blake meets Walt Whitman in Hoffman, a voice of unparalleled lyricism that is both utterly intimate and specific, as it is wisely oracular and mystical, with a density of breathtaking metaphors that truly elucidate the life and death, death and life of all things that matter in our lives. – Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet, author of How To Love a County
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