America’s Tony Hoagland (1953-2018) was known for provocative poems which interrogate human nature and contemporary culture with an intimate and wild urgency, located somewhere between outrage, stand-up comedy, and grief. The poems in his final collection Turn Up the Ocean examine with an unflinching eye and mordant humour the reality of living and dying in a time and culture that conspire to erase our inner lives.
Hoagland’s signature wit and unparalleled observations take in long-standing injustices, the atrocities of American empire and consumerism, and our continuing habit of looking away. In these poems, perseverance depends on a gymnastics of scepticism and comedy, a dogged quest for authentic connection, and the consolations of the natural world. Turn Up the Ocean is a remarkable and moving collection, a fitting testament to Hoagland’s devotion to the capaciousness and art of poetry.
Tony Hoagland’s poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He was American poetry’s hilarious ‘high priest of irony’, a wisecracker and a risk-taker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushed the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.