JOHN HODGEN is visiting assistant
professor of English at Assumption College,
He is the author of three previous books of
poetry: In My Father's House, winner of the
Bluestem Award; Bread Without Sorrow,
winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize; and
Grace, winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize in
Poetry. Hodgen is the recipient of numerous
other awards, including the Foley Poetry
Prize, the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, the Grolier
Prize, an Arvon Foundation Award, and the
Chad Walsh Prize in Poetry.
Heaven & Earth Holding Company (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
"Heaven & Earth Holding Company contains a plentitude of delights. Like little stories
told in the night, these poems are clear narratives crossed by mysterious shadows. And
Hodgen's tone occupies a singular place at the intersection of funky wit and true feeling."
"It is amazing how quickly John Hodgen's poems can somersault from hilarity to broken
hope, from mousetraps to mantraps to everything we have yearned for filled to the eyeballs
with the peril of mortal love. And he does it while tiptoeing along the very edge of
a kind of open-handed formality not seen in our poetry for a long time, a formality always
threatening to break, and sometimes indeed breaking, beautifully, under the weight of
feeling on the one hand and truth on the other. This is a remarkable book."
"These are wise, wisecracking poems that rue and mock our human failings, but always
preserve and honor our humanness. I am grateful for the deeply spiritual and allembracing
expanse of these poems that cherish the beautiful mess of our lives with
humor and compassion. Here is an art that knows how we stumble, 'one endless mistake
after another,' into 'the heart's true song.'"
On Bethlehem's Plain
They are sending her home for Christmas, back to Nickel Mines,
the last of the Amish girls hospitalized in the shootings.
She will ride all the way in the ambulance from Philadelphia,
look out the window past the blue reversed caduceus, the serpent and staff,
see the holiday travelers, the last-minute shoppers, the exits backed up at the malls.
She will look, unblinking, at the other children, grim, who will look back at her
from the rusty, elongated church vans with names like Hope and Free and Grace Evangelical.
She will see the pale school buses lined up in the lots, empty as barns in the spring.
She will see the convoys of soldiers, hunters in trucks, then the long, feathered fields,
the different grasses, still green somehow, the weather so warm. She will see the shepherds,
the horse carts, and the walkers, like Sadducees, their beards lifting up in the wind.
She will see the school's been torn down. She will close her eyes but she will see it still,
the single room she continues to attend, the blood on the walls like holly.
She is coming to us, and she knows everything, the child coming back to be born.
She will never believe. She will not believe kings, will not wish on any scattered star.
She has seen a few things. She knows who we are.