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November 08, 2019


Thank you for bringing Tony back some.

Thank you for writing this. Tony touched so many of us. Such a serious loss. His workshop at Miami Writing Center was one of the most valuable I've ever attended.

I never met him either, but have so loved his poems for many years. An incredible loss.

Here's my only Tony Hoagland story: In the late 80s I was at Breadloaf, attending a Mark Strand reading in the Barn, when there was someone heckling him from the back. A skinny blonde guy saying "O really?" or "Come off it!" Shocking, this upstart messing with a handsome poetry god. God Strand, actually was having a bit of a laugh at the interruptions, but was he just trying to mollify the class clown? The next day as I was going into the dining hall, the blonde guy was too. "It wasn't very nice of you to interrupt Mark Strand," I chided (English teacher). Tony Hoagland, a complete stranger, put his arm around me, introduced himself, walked with me. "Oh, I'm so sorry," he said. "It's just that I think poetry readings are way too respectful. I was just trying to shake things up a bit. I would never want to distress you! " Huh? He didn't even know me. But I sensed his sincerity, I did. I loved him! And I think of him, will always think of him whenever I go to a reverential poetry reading. (Sometimes I might even heckle a bit to keep things real. In memory.)

My Lunch with Tony Hoagland

He couldn't not
flirt with the waitress
who was sexy with
bad teeth. She reminded me
of his best poems,
the way they smile at you
through the pain. He wore
a gray baseball hat
like he was rooting for gray,
like there was too much
black or white in the world,
too much win or lose,
and much too much
rain or shine. We talked about
Dean Young
and Larry Levis
and Jimi Hendrix
and Buddhism and capitalism and narcissism,
and the corrugated green
pickles they placed at the edge of our plates
crunched softly in our mouths
as the conversation turned
to sadness. He kept saying
he was lucky. I kept thinking
his poems make me wish I'd written them.
So it felt a little like
plagiarism, the waitress
coming back with our credit cards
and giving me his credit card
by mistake, and me signing my name
to his lunch while he was
peeing in the men's room,
and me calling it my lunch now
with Tony Hoagland.

Thank you, Paul. -- DL

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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