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The Never-Ending Reviews
The following poems in this book are great:"How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land?""Praying Drunk""Heat Lightning in a Time of Drought" and "Communion in the Asylum."
Andrew Hudgins, The Never-Ending (Houghton Mifflin, 1991)Few people who read Andrew Hudgins' poem "Praying Drunk" are likely to forget it any time soon."....I want a lot of money and a woman.And, also, I want vanishing cream. You know,a character like Popeye rubs it onand disappears. Although you see right through him,he's there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,and smoke that's clearly visible escapesfrom his invisible pipe. It makes me think,sometimes, of you...."Hudgins is one of those rarest of birds, a poet who flaunts the rules not because he doesn't know what they are, or because he feels rules are "beneath" poetry (as so many thousands of people who write bad poetry do), but because he's actually writing stuff whose form, structure, and substance demand a certain amount of rule-breaking. He throws rhyming couplets into a free-verse poem, comes up with the occasional horrid line break (as in the third line of the quote above), throws every grammar rulebook to the wind, and is one of those very few whose words sound as good as they do because of the way he chose to write the poems in this book. Every flaunted rule hints at hours, maybe days, of thought on whether the lines in question might sound better in some other form. In every case, it seems, the answer was no.Hudgins, much lauded and yet little known, is one of modern America's finest poetic voices. The Never-Ending continued his recognition as such, becoming his third book in a row nominated for a major American prize (the National Book Award, this time); it was also his third book overall. That's a track record that's pretty hard to miss.Unlike so many fine ones, Hudgins' books, most of them, are still in print. Give the man a try. You won't regret it. **** ½
Powerful, wow poems, deeply felt, steeped in Christianity, in guilt & sin & redemption. This book is functioning on that level--the religious--and on the level of seeing stuff closely in the world, so I appreciate its power the way I appreciate the short stories of Flannery O'Connor, whom I read and loved before I had any clue of her intense Catholicism.I have heard Hudgins read poems aloud. Then, and reading his work on the page, I have felt, "This man has something to teach me," about life and about poetry. OK, I finished this, wrote about it in my blog, and will say I love the mix of gritty, "ugly" images, and icky feelings with the never-ending seeking of the light in this book. The "light" itself is tricky and dangerous as with the moth and its light-directed nervous system in "Bewilderments of the Eye."These are the kind of rich, storied poems, with images from memories intersecting with the present, right-before-the-eye observations that make me want to go into my back yard and write a poem of my own.
Eric Minor named his short story book, Praying Drunk, after one of the poems in this volume. Loved the poems, and they were a great companion read to Minor. Dark, religious, personal, and, ultimately, hopeful. A great volume of poetry.