Winner of the 2005 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry.
Grace is John Hodgen’s third book of poetry. He is a poet of extreme contrasts, offering us the dregs of despair, yet instantly recalling hope in the beauty of nature or in a moment in time when all is right, when we realize grace. In “For the Leapers” the narrator relates, “We will fall past the angels, / we will fall from such height, / our tears will lift up from our eyes. / We will fall straight through hell. / And then we will rise.” Hodgen’s poems roam through history, religion, man-made disasters, baseball, pop culture, and Wal-Marts, on paths that come full circle with remarkable completeness, maturity, and dexterity.
John Hodgen's Grace presents an operatic cast that includes Abraham Lincoln, the poet's family, Harpo Marx, Boris Karloff, Boxcar Willie, and Garbo—to name a few—and a wide range of settings from Fenway Park in Boston, to Florence and Rome, to 'backwoods Tennessee' and the 'Coolawhatchie Blimpie Gas n' Go.' Through lively diction and skillful work with form, Hodgen turns zaniness to tenderness; loneliness to joy. This surprising, welcome book of poems is full of thanksgiving, charm, and much good grace.
John Hodgen's beautiful book is a reminder that the elegiac exists not to invoke sadness, but to open and, finally, celebrate our shared experience of the great depth of feeling loss reveals in us. Few poets have rung this bell with the silver and loving precision to be found in Grace. Poem after poem is so charged with affectionate clarity that the whole book breaks, like a wave, toward a kind of atonement.
Hard and dark as the world of these poems often is, Hodgen manages again and again to somehow transform the crucified world into a dazzling vortex of language and syntax and yet authentic shivelights of grace. Here is a unique and unmistakable voice for our moment.
Hodgen's poems countermand the dictates of mass culture that impress upon readers images of airbrushed and Photoshopped perfection. [His] assembled imager of the common aspects of life . . . reflect the sublime sense of grace one can attain by paying close attention to the most familiar things.
Hodgen has penned a masterful work that has left me deeply moved. High recommended.
Eclectic, introverted, and original. His voice, with all its commercialisms and idiosyncrasies, is distinct and sincere; his experience is authentic and compensatory. He accomplishes the most a poet can hope for.
John Hodgen is visiting assistant professor of English at Assumption College. He is the author of three previous books of poetry: In My Father’s House, winner of the Bluestem Award; Bread Without Sorrow, winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize; and Grace, winner of the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. Hodgen is the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Foley Poetry Prize, the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, the Grolier Prize, an Arvon Foundation Award, and the Chad Walsh Prize in Poetry.learn more