Per Contra Reviews
Liesl Jobson for Per Contra Reviews
The text is ambitious and all-encompassing, simultaneously poetry volume, writing manual, teacher's guide, autobiography and philosophical reflection on the nature of poetry and the writing life.
Significantly, every poem in the book is a poem about poetry. The exception to this is his students' work, which is presented in a section on encountering the workshop, and offers generous and insightful advice on editing, teaching, and how to benefit from a workshop.
The reflexive nature of this narrative is distilled in some of the chapter and poem titles, which are in turn provocative, jeering, cautionary and wise:
The cover artwork has its own fascinating story: Cincinanati ceramicist Terri Kern hand painted her interpretation of Hague's poetry in clay tiles, using multiple layers of underglaze, combining brushwork and sgraffito techniques, and firing them with a clear glaze.
Hague refers to the texts that inspired him: Robert Frosts' Education by Poetry, James Gleick's Chaos: The Making Of A New Science and Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Of these works, he writes: "Sometimes you read books that speak so clearly and so excitingly to you -and it seems, to you so personally and privately- that they change your life, they change the way you see the world: they shift your paradigms. I would go so far as to say that if you've never been knocked to the floor by a book, your education is not complete."
Lives of the Poem is just such a book. It has befriended me as writer, engaged me as reader, and challenged the teacher I am to re-imagine my doctrines and dogmas. I am rethinking how and why I read and write poetry, and in its pages, I have found balm and wit for the broken parts of my own head, heart and writing life.
"Lives of the Poem - Community & Connection in a Writing Life," by Richard Hague. Nicholasville, KY: Wind Publications, 2005, 324 pages, Hardcover $29.00, Paperback $19.00