From Publishers Weekly
Hofmann's harsh, memorable second book of poetry in America (following K.S. in Lakeland) is his fourth in the U.K., where he's already widely celebrated for powerful poems concerning his troubled and arrogant father, the German novelist Gert Hofmann. The new collection begins with a series of poems about Gert's death: "I hardly dared touch you/ your empty open hands on the awful mendacious coverlet." From such scenes the poet proceeds to a sometimes-romantic, sometimes-appalled account of his German childhood (displaying, for example, "the furnace room/ where my jeans were baked hard against an early departure"), and then to a series of scenes from America and England, many recalling badly managed love affairs. As in his older work, Hofmann draws constantly on the rhetorical moves of the later Robert Lowell. But Hofmann's creative intensities, his talent with acerbic, deliberately unwieldy lines, and his narrative purposes allow his style to be more adaptive than derivative. Hofmann's tangled-up progressions from place to place, person to person, day to night, ballasted by hard-to-manage nouns, mix sophisticated disillusion with a deliberately adolescent sense of expectations: the seven-line "June," for example, gives a too-brief, furtive romance its due: " part of an afternoon, a truncated night... never a day and a day and a day... our honeymoon epic in illicit installments." Dominant moods of self-lacerating anger, disappointment and insistent, frustrated questioning are clear on first reading, electrically present in language and line breaks. But Hofmann's final arguments and attitudes can be hard to extract from poems so strewn with personal debris, family relics and broken public works; such difficulties, formal and emotional, take their own places among the rewards the poems offer. (Sept.)
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"Michael Hofmann is one of the best poets writing in English."--Helen Dunmore, Observer
"It is probably impossible to produce poetry of this quality that is tuned more precisely to the timbre of the present than Michael Hofmann's. Rapture is the only adequate response."--Geoff Dyer, Guardian