Hodgon (These Ancient Songs, Sing I, in Chains Now Bound, 2016) offers readers a glimpse into his inventive brain in this poetry collection.
One senses from this book’s title that the author has a lot on his mind. Indeed, he does, and the volume attempts that most basic, yet most challenging, of poetic tasks: putting abstract thought into words. Appropriately, then, the first long piece is titled “Ten Thoughts.” “Thought 5” is subtitled “On Talk”: “Small talk can become a consuming Fire of / misunderstanding / which none know whence it came. / Learn Well to Control It.” Here as elsewhere in this collection, Hodgon moves from reflection to advice, and throughout the book he seems eager to pass along wisdom gathered during a life well-lived. Yet the poet is at his best when he puts his own thinking in conversation with that of other authors, many of whom are religious writers. For example, “In Darkness” engages the Apostle Paul’s great hymn to love in the Bible’s 1 Corinthians. In response, the author writes, “Faith / Love / or Hope? / When is each more stronger than the others? / Are not faith and hope not similar and dissimilar? / Interesting.” If there’s a weakness in Hodgon’s verse, it is his penchant for one-word lines. Certainly, that particular device can be powerful; think of the jarring “Ha!” in the middle of Hamlet’s “rogue and peasant slave” soliloquy. Yet even the sharpest knife will dull if one uses it too often, and Hodgon uses one-word lines so frequently that they often destroy his poetry’s flow. For instance, in the final stanza of “Streams of Blood and Tears 4”: “'Blood is thicker than water.. / the cause of unnecessary / revenge, / pain / and / not measured thought / maybe. / An excuse for the perpetual bullying / of / another / family. / Innocence and guilt, / irrelevant.” Longer lines would restore lost rhythm—and save paper, too.
A reflective book of ambitious, if sometimes-jittery, verse that ranges wide over one poet’s interior landscape.