spoof, remember?

The Change
for Tony Hoagland
(scroll down on the link)

Sometimes I think that nothing really changes—

The critics canonize the latest crop of mummies
and the new president of the poetry foundation proves that he’s a dummy.

but remember the poetry reading we watched that year?
Right before our eyes

some lean mean white man
with lightning white hair like Zeus,
some outrageous name like Baloney Hoagie—

We were just walking past the coffee shop
and got sucked in by his honesty
and pretty soon
we started to really listen,

putting ourselves into each hacked phrase
as the metaphors mixed and matched
like some contest between
the old world and the last white hope,

and you loved his uncomplicated hair
and his to-hell-with-everybody stare,
and I,
I couldn’t help wanting
the white man to shut up
because he wasn’t one of my kind, my tribe,
with his pale eyes and white teeth

and because the white man was so mean
and so white
so unintimidated,

singing his similes like he was driving the White Man’s Burden
down The Melting Pot’s throat,
like he wasn’t asking no-one’s permission.

There are moments when America
harasses you so close
you can smell its beard,
you can reach your hand out
and touch its white a$$

and I didn’t watch all that much All in the Family
but I could feel the end of an era there

in front of those couches full of people
in their Sunday poetry-watching clothes
as that white man wore down his listeners
then kicked our a$$e$ good
then thumped us once more for good measure

and stood up on the podium
holding a poem over head like a Communion Host

And the little moderator
had to climb on both volumes of Poems for the Millennium
to put the crown of thorns on his head
still managing to smile into the camera flash,
nothing has changed

and in fact, nothing had already changed—


7 thoughts on “spoof, remember?

  1. I was really taken aback by Hoaglund’s poem. Wow. I don’t think there’s a problem with puting potentially offensive/”mean” things in a poem – I think something poetry should do is expose these traumatic kernels our culture tries to smoothen over (a lot of which have to do with race), but I think the problem with Hoaglund’s poem is that it pulls up one of these uncomfortable race moments and then smooths over it, makes it seem perfectly natural to root for one’s tribe. That’s a real problem.

    About your spoof: you pick up on something interesting – The white poet (the Hoaglund stand-in) has a weird name. In fact Hoaglund has a very strange, very ethnic name that’s been made even stranger by Americanization (It should either be Höglund or Haglund (my mom’s maiden name)). So in a sense you expose the lie of “whiteness” as an ethnicity.

    I have a question though: Why Poems for the Millennium? I think Rothenberg has done a lot (though sometimes in a very hippie way) to undo the ethnocentrism of US poetry.


  2. dear craig, i will have to come to the bay area and plant a bomb in your garden if you leave the list serve.

    hope all is well. congrats on the publications. dont tear the jacket article down. just write another article on the same subject and publish it on your blog. conflict is needed. animosity etc. there is a great deal of constipation in the poetry world.



  3. johannes,

    thanks for commenting! definitely agree that poetry should expose the traumatic kernels, and agree that he smooths the complexity of the moment over. plus, so much of the other poetic stuff around that moment is just lame

    how interesting about his last name! to me that was one of the more offensive parts of the poem…him trying to exocitize her name, when really his last feels far more “exotic” than hers!

    Poems for the millennium mainly because it was the biggest book i own. tho i wanted to write The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry And Poetics…but that would have smashed my variable feet 😉

    tho rothenberg has done alot, i feel that much of his work with so called “ethnopoetics” is quite problematic. but maybe a later post! hope to see you around here more…and i will put a new post update on the LIPWOLF RELEASE. sorry about the mixup

  4. asher,

    well, that’s one way to get you out to the bay area!

    its torn. write another article! you must be crazy…

    anyhow, i will still be right where i left me 😉

  5. craig,

    any thing that evokes so much contention is a good thing.
    that’s hilarious that you were accused of misreading yeats by
    a school teacher, and misrepresenting magee. that doesn’t sound like symbolic democratic action etc. (lol). subjectivity is not endlessly floating, afterall…
    in any case, a lot of people ended up defending you. i thought the essay was so conflicted between two thoughts that i couldn’t discern a main thesis; the paper seemed to tip in magee’s favour (so im surprised that you were accused by both sides etc.) who was over represented in theory and in your selective quotations. i have not read magee’s critical work so i had trouble getting through the essay, to be completely honest. any way, others raised interesting issues which are particularily important to me. why are south asians marginalized from the ethnic ‘avant-garde’ etc. etc. not that i necessarily want to get involved in endless bickering, always feeling somehow outside of calculated responses–trusting rather in friendship forged around a common anti-colonial political formation which emphasizes issues of race and gender, rather than the politics of identity.

    any way, yes, it would be nice to chill together sometime in the future. if i can save some money from my job in catholic morgue (im currently digging bodies out of the ground), maybe ill take a grayhound down to the bay area and we can hit some poetry readings and do some reading/writing together.

    best regards,


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