Customer Reviews: Sweet Ruin (Brittingham Prize in Poetry)
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on June 30, 1998
Tony Hoagland's poems are accessible. There is nothing arcane to decipher unwillingly, no unnatural stretch for depth. The depth is there already. This is the poetry that I grew to love, when I first began reading contemporary poets back in the 70's. Robert Pinsky, Alan Dugan, Robert Bly, A.R.Ammons and others were on my shelf long before Tony Hoagland had published. And I think Hoagland's poems owe something to those writers. But his take on the art is his own and it is by far the more colloquial. The image is instant, the emotion is shared completely, the words make tangible record in the reader's mind. And the effect often is startling. My favorite poem in the book is called 'Safeway.' I read this poem in an issue of Ploughshares some years ago and thought it so wonderful that I subscribed to that pushcart, only later to find that not all its material affects me as that one poem does and always will. When I purchased 'Sweet Ruin' I expected to find at least a few poems not to my liking. But mirabile dictu! Every poem is as striking and enjoyable as 'Safeway.' Polished without seeming to have been, sounding as though they were written on bar napkins and never revised, glib and facile and beautifully inspired, 'Sweet Ruin' is one of those books you will reread ad infinitum, never knowing when you're finished.
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on December 16, 2004
From the beginning of poetry, from the beginnings of Greek and Roman poems, poetry has striven to be both dulce et utile---pleasant and useful. Tony Hoagland is a poet who captures both of those aspects of poetry, and effortlessly so. Not a single word goes to waste, as he describes situations familiar to almost any audience, while making them sound extraordinary and worth reading about. The wishes of mankind are encapsulated in this poetry: "I should walk up the stairs right now/ and make slow love to the woman I live with." These are poems which are provoking and well-thought out, to the point of being accessible: "It wasn't easy, inventing the wheel..."

Reading Hoagland's poetry, a sense of life is gained, while in his poetry, life moves on: observed, undisturbed, and intact for the next reader.
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on November 27, 2001
I paid [dollar amount] sight and unseen based on the author's appearance in a recent APR volume. It arrived as a slim tradepaper volume and my first thought was, 'I paid [dollar amount] for this?' After reading the first poem I realized how thoughtless I was and wished, oh how I wished, I had a hardcover version. Halfway through the book I put it away because I wanted to save the rest of the poems. They are too good to read all at once, but it's so easy to do. These are such an insight, the mind recalling all those spaces in a life, some painful and some funny, but all told in a carefully chosen syntax that doesn't misplace a single word.
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on October 15, 2003
Nothing I can say will do justice to this book. It is practically perfect. I wish I had found him sooner in life. I just caught him at a reading a couple weeks ago, and found his new poems a little more playful than Sweet Ruin, but equally brilliant. The other reviewers are right. This book is hard to find because no one wants to give it up. If you take poetry seriously, you can't afford not to indulge in Hoagland's brilliance. I don't want to break his work down line by line and get pedagogical. Every line is so good, I wouldn't know which ones to pick for discussion. Steal this book if you have to.
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VINE VOICEon June 18, 2015
These poems are what I'd call "guy poems," but Tony Hoagland is such a compelling and honest poet that I (a feminist) read them avidly. The title poem, "Sweet Ruin" about a lot of things, including his father's destroying his marriage by taking off to a trailer with a recent divorcee and his feelings about that, is particularly moving.
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on February 25, 2014
From the first poem I was mesmerized, thinking; "Hey, I think that all the time but did not know how to say it!" One after another they are wonderful pieces of craftsmanship that throw a loose net over the ineffable and present it to the reader. I expected that he would throw in some doggerel to pad the pages but I only found beautiful idea maps that pointed me into the miracle of being alive. As of this reading I am a fan for life. What a guy! Give Mr. Hoagland a chance and post on my post if you have another opinion, I am curious to know what other people think about his fabulous work.
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on October 25, 2006
One of the most important books of poetry to ever cross my path. I return to this constantly. Earnest, real, vivid -- none of these words suffice to how incredible this book is. Get on it.
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on May 17, 2006
I have read this aloud over the phone to friends thousands of miles away. I've read it aloud at dinner parties. I've purchased it for friends. This is a remarkable collection of poems, a treasure. I don't want to sound so precious about it, but I can't help it. I found Hoagland's writing when I was 20, and I'm sure I'll still be coming back to the same poems when I'm an old lady. Amazing!
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on November 7, 2013
This is a wonderful volume of poetry. I read a lot, A LOT, but not much poetry. I saw a poem by Hoagland in a magazine and was really touched. Do yourself a favor and buy this. Articulate, fearless and heart rending. I intend to purchase every thing he's written.
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on March 17, 2007
for about a year i have been struggling with my good intentions to try and fall in love with poems. now, i may be turning the corner. this is the 2nd book of poetry in a row that i have really, really enjoyed. last week i finished al purdy's "rooms for rent in the outer planets," and now i just got done with tony hoagland's "sweet ruin." both fantastic. hoagland's book had me turning pages with joy, rather than with the sense of a chore being gotten through. i highly recomend this book.
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