I read Michael Hofmann’s Selected Poems last year and was as astonished by it as I have been by any recent poetry book. So I’ve been reading the individual collections – last night, Acrimony, and it’s still marvellous.
The sheer dynamism of his descriptions blows me away. No still lives here. Take this stanza from Nighthawks:
I met a dim acquaintance, a man with the manner
of a laughing-gas victim, rich, frightened, and jovial.
Why doesn’t everyone wear pink, he squeaked.
Only a couple of blocks are safe in his world.
The energy is partly in the descriptions themselves, partly in the movement from one line to another, including those that aren’t enjambed.
And from Between Bed and Wastepaper Basket:
All things tend toward the yellow of unlove,
the tawny, moulting carpet where I am commemorated
by tea- and coffee- stains, by the round holes of furniture –
too much of it, and too long in the same place.
The “yellow of unlove” – what a great phrase! The tragic use of “commemorated”, the way a common detail such as furniture marks can become, without strain, a metaphor for the human condition.