Paul Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry

I’ve finally started reading Postmodern American Poetry by Paul Hoover, so while it may seem that I’ve temporarily abandoned this web site, rather, I’m refusing to read another book until I’ve finished this one.

I’m trying to force myself to travel outside my normal ruts, convinced that even if I don’t find something that I like as well as my usual fare that I will at least come back to it more satisfied than I left.

Considering that I generally have wide-ranging tastes in everything from food to art, though, I can’t help but feel that I will find some new kinds of poetry that will appeal to me. I’ve purposely made the task a little harder by automatically rejecting poems by postmodern poets I already like, particularly Beat poets like Ferlinghetti or Snyder.

So far I’m finding the going a little tough, at times have to read and reread a particular poet trying to understand, and appreciate, what’s been written. I’ve found the first two, Charles Olson and John Cage particularly difficult to understand, and, not surprisingly, even harder to admire.

The first poet I’ve noted for further study is Robert Duncan. Although I hated the longest poem in the selection, “A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar,” I was intrigued by “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” and “Poetry, a Natural Thing.”

The first poet I’ve decided that I need to pursue further, though, is Hilda Morley because I found something I like in nearly every poem included in the collection. My favorite is


& with intensely
blue eyes ” I remember her,

&with what used to
seem her tremendous, pent-up

as I stand here
in this light of
the full moon which covers, fills
all the interstices, whatever
might, without it, be cause for
pain: a gap in creation.

I can see her
understanding the strangeness
of it, of this light seeming
as if deliberate,


She would have seen what
was strange in it,

but not
the beauty.

That he could see
whose pace was slower, more
like mine, floating
in his movements,

as I am

lost a little & given
to phrases where the thinking was
half-true but never
true enough, half-dreaming,
half lying.

He would have
seen the beauty and for him
the strangeness would have

most natural.

Her poem makes me want to sit down right now and write a poem that explores how my parents’ way of seeing the world has influenced me, and see if I can understand which of them has most influenced me. It’s amazing how the poet can see the strengths and weaknesses of each parent, while at the same time understanding what part they play in her own makeup. At the moment, though, I’ll have to settle for having added her to my Amazon wish-list.

I’ll have to admit, though, that I’m not exactly sure why this poem, or the poet herself, for that matter, qualifies as “post-modern” poetry (except for the spacing that’s nearly impossible to reproduce accurately in html) though perhaps that’ll become clearer as I explore further.

One thought on “Paul Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry”

  1. I really like this poem too. Above all I like the last line. She could have just said ‘natural’ or maybe ‘quite natural’, but the slightly old-fashioned, rather formal, and more assertive ‘most natural’ somehow adds an extra dimension.

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