Donkey Gospel
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Donkey Gospel

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,049 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Winner of the 1997 James Laughlin Award of The Academy of American Poets

In his second collection of poems, Hoagland's generous effervescence and a jujitsu cleverness sparkle through line after line confronting negotiation and compromise, gender and culture, sex and rock music, sons and lovers, truth and beauty, and so forth. From the boy who speaks only in "Kung Fu" dialog...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published February 1st 1998 by Graywolf Press
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Community Reviews

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Ilze
Aug 12, 2008 Ilze rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ilze by: Mermaid7
Hoagland quite obviously writes from a male perspective. This is stating the obvious, though, even if you tried to think a woman wrote them, you can’t (too much sex from his side!). This is not to criticise, it is simply to place the author in perspective; a perspective that is mainly autobiographical as one learns plenty about his parents without having known the details before. In several poems he states that a memory or feeling originated in the late 1960s early ’70s and, let’s face it, those...more
Rachel Ann Brickner
There’s a dreadful humor to these poems. I’ve read “Self-Improvement” at least a hundred times now:

Just before she flew off like a swan
to her wealthy parents’ summer home,
Bruce’s college girlfriend asked him
to improve his expertise at oral sex,
and offered him some technical advice:

Use nothing but his tonguetip
to flick the light switch in his room
on and off a hundred times a day
until he grew fluent at the nuances
of force and latitude.

Imagine him at practice every evening,
more inspired than he eve...more
Michael Meyerhofer
Donkey Gospel, the first book I encountered by Tony Hoagland, is very easily one of the best books of poetry I've ever seen. All of his poems are taut with lyrical courage, tempered with great risk, and resplendent with what I like to call a refreshing, emotional honesty.

Hoagland seems on every page to be both ferocious and vulnerable in a manner that is sadly lacking in much of today's elitist verse. In "Donkey Gospel", Hoagland overwhelmingly disproves the thesis of so many other poets--that g...more
Joseph
I became interested in Tony Hoagland through Hun Lye. He is a very witty turning into insightful, often to the point of laughter, yet also sometimes shockingly pointed. All of these qualities make for a very contemplative, enjoyable read, and I found myself earmarking the poems so that I could read them to somebody later.

Because I have lately been immersed reading Mary Oliver's Rules of the Dance, which is all about metrics and rhythm, I was particularly sensitive to these qualities, and while...more
Courtney
Oct 13, 2007 Courtney rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: my neighbor Matt, to whom I gave it for his last birthday
This is an amazing bok. Hoagland can be both hilarious and heartbreaking within the space of a few lines. I am continually impressed and moved by his work. My favorties in this collection are Adam and Eve, Medicine, whatever the one is where he holds his mother over the bathtub, just to torture her, and the one that starts:


(from "Fred Had Watched a Lot of Kung Fu Episodes")

so when the policeman asked
to see his driver's license, he said,
Does the wind need permission

from the hedgehog to blow?
whic...more
Ryan Gato
He has some good lines it's true. His tone is personable, allowing him to craft interesting scenarios from seemingly commonplace and overdone subject matter (i.e. life on the West Coast, masculinity,etc.) while juxtaposing these scenearios with increasingly intense and surreal imagery/speech.

My tiff with Hoagland is that he can get forumalic: his weaker poems don't struggle for their insight; and because Hoagland doesn't stray too far from his general project of "critiquing of our cultural valu...more
Willow
This is a decent collection of poems. I enjoyed some of them a lot but there were also a few that felt a little trendy. Hoagland writes strong last lines that are shocking and well crafted.
Avi
Reading this, I wanted to roar with rage and recognition, finally, a living poet I adore! And this poem in particular will be dear to my heart as long as I live with a still functioning brain:

Lawrence

On two occasions in the past twelve months
I have failed, when someone at a party
spoke of him with a dismissive scorn,
to stand up for D. H. Lawrence,

a man who burned like an acetylene torch
from one end to the other of his life.
These individuals, whose relationship to literature
is approximately that o...more
Kyle  Tresnan
Apr 30, 2013 Kyle Tresnan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kyle by: Marie Heller
Shelves: favorites
Marie and I don't use the word "hateboner" like most people do. Most people, I guess, get hateboners when they really, really, hate something. Like they hate it so much it gives them a boner.

We think that's dumb. That's just not how boners work. Whoever came up with that definition for hateboner (I'm looking at you, Urban Dictionary user Shannon Murphy)is silly and should feel silly.

For us, a hateboner is at the opposite end of the love/hate spectrum (Important: it's not in the middle of the sp...more
Mike
I was at a New Year's party, making small talk with a brother of a friend of Mindy's, and somehow we discovered a mutual appreciation for the poetry of Billy Collins. "If you like Billy Collins," this guy said, "You have to read Tony Hoagland."

So I did. And it's pretty good. I can see why this guy made the comparison to Collins: they both write in a very clear, earthy style that's easy to understand and appreciate on a first reading. The big difference between the two is what they write about....more
Kevin
Hoagland lacks the normal poetic courtesy--the delicate word choice, the calm, transcendent view-- and it makes him what he is--pretty darn good. He's raw and unabashed. His use of metaphor and especially simile rank among the greats. The man has an ear if ever one did. On the other hand like so many poets today, he's stuck writing about his personal experiences. I think the occasional blurb here and there about oneself is fine, but it's not clear to me that poetry as an art is merely a therapy...more
Cindy
Aug 27, 2008 Cindy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cindy by: Nick Hornby--indirectly
I took a poetry writing course this summer with David Clewell (more on his collections later), and it has gotten me back among the poetry stacks. Well, I didn't know anything about Tony Hoagland but one of his collections was cited in THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE (see my reference to this Nick Hornby book)and though the one he mentioned wasn't currently available at my library, DONKEY GOSPEL was. What a great title!!! And the poems follow the title's promise of being true but oh so funny. Many of the...more
Kristen Northrup
My plan was to read a couple poems per day or per week or something, but I ended up going through the entire book in one sitting. It was like eating chips. Not entirely surprising, because the same thing happened when I read What Narcissism Means to Me, which came five years after this one. I did not, however, have the immediate compulsion to buy five more copies of this one and mail them to friends, like I did with Narcissism. Nothing in this collection grabbed me in quite the same way as, say,...more
Max
Mar 08, 2012 Max rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This is the first book of collected poetry I've read that does not have a consecutive storyline, and I really enjoyed it. Hoagland does not shy away from the very real issues society is facing but rather confronts them in a stark and poignant manner. There were several of the poems that stuck out to me for their beautiful composition, but the one I can't seem to forget is "Beauty," which is about his sister and the ideas of what it means to be beautiful. I borrowed a copy from a friend to read,...more
Eyal
I can't remember the last time I read an entire book of poetry. I liked it very much. Very male, very American, very San Francisco.

I found it through Nick Hornby, from The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle With the Monthly Tide of the Books He's Bought and the Books He's Been Meaning to Read
Andrew
This was enjoyable but suffered only in comparison to how much I loved "Unincorporated Persons." This feels less political and not quite as laugh-caught-in-my-throat producing. That said: "Down inside history's body, / the slaves are still singing in the dark; / the roads continue to be built; / the wind blows and the building grips itself / in anticipation of the next strong gust. / So an enormous act of forgetting is required / simply to kiss someone."

Damn, also: "Until we say the truth, ther...more
Jessica
Just reread this. At his best, he reminds me a bit of Billy Collins, but this time through most of the poems seemed to me a bit self-conscious and not fully realized. I do really like "Lawrence," which has some of the best insults around. And this bit, from "Self-Improvement" always sticks with me: "and in this way, what we are practicing / is suffering, / which everybody practices, / but strangely few of us / grow graceful in."
Dan
Aug 06, 2008 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone who likes poetry or would like to try reading poetry for the first time.
Recommended to Dan by: Gary Lilley
I went out and immediately bought 'Donkey Gospel" after reading "What Narcissism Means to Me: Poems" by Tony Hoagland. I was not disappointed, a lot poems where I just laughed out loud while reading. Some really great writing about the day events in life and how we view them, remember them, or wish them to be. Favorite poems include "Mission," "Research," and "Beauty." Read this book and you will not be disappointed.
James
Hoagland's poems deal with a variety of topics, but at their core they deal with masculinity in the contemporary world. He finds wonderful metaphors and images that speak to the frustrations, joys and confusions of being a man. Highly recommended.

You can sample some of his poetry here. (The first two poems are in this collection.)
Matt
I appreciate his humor and subject matter more than his craft. There's an art-disguised-as-artlessness, but methinks the donkey doth protest too much. "Game" and "Lucky" are stand outs, more for their completeness than any new twist on an old theme. But it's refreshing to feel the poet at least lives in the same mental ZIP code, has the same qualms and quotidian concerns as me, "the average reader."
David S.
Hoagland goes from writing lines like "So an enermous act of forgetting is required/simply to kiss someone" to "I wanted to punch her right in the mouth and that's the truth." There's even a poem titled DickheadIt's all poignancy and touching, then funny and absurd. It's also incredibly accessible. Despite all the humor, there's a real seriousness to the poetry, too. It's great. Check it out.
Cathleen
This was the first book I read of Hoagland's and I just loved how real he was about things. He keeps his writing very relatable and light in the sense that his poetry doesn't riddle the readers mind. He takes funny, serious, everyday things and gives them a point. Throughout all of this he keeps things personal which just makes his poetry even more relatable. Definitely enjoyable reading!
Sarah
A handful of interesting poems, but too many here make me uncomfortable, and not in a thoughtful way. The male gaze is present in all of these poems, and in most it is heavy and overwhelming. The confessional poems are the worst with this. Not all poems here are confessional, however, and when Hoagland escapes his self-centered point of view, the language turns clever and more entertaining.
Marissa
An unbelievable book of entertaining and insightful if not overly masculine poetry. This one is more raw than What Narcissism Means to Me, but good because of that. This is accessible poetry at its best--every day topics complete with names of people he knows, so you feel like you could be speaking with a very clever cook-out guest after a few beers. Okay, maybe more than a few.
Jessica Elizabeth
Tony Hoagland poetry takes risks ands speaks what most are too afraid to acknowledge. This collection contains one of his most provacative poems where he writes of a historical tennis match and the racial tension ideliably inscribed on our hearts. His work is uncomfortably thought provoking, brave, funny and both inter and outerprospective. A favorite of mine for sure!
Dawn
This book is only as good as the asshole who is reading it and who wants to be petted for being such a good asshole, for being quiet and doing nothing mean and admitting that it would be nice to be nice but oh fucking well, there's nothing to being an asshole so I'll just read these tony hoagland poems and think about it and go do the things that are perpetually being done.
Ann
I started with Hoagland's most recent collection What Narcissism Means to Me and found it wonderful. This earlier collection is a little flat in comparison although there is a lot to like about it. I can definitely see the growth of his poetry. The poems in Donkey Gospel felt like they were missing a little something present in his later work. Nonetheless I enjoyed the read.
Tom Romig
I ran into a friend at a Billy Collins reading a few weeks ago and we got to talking about poets, naturally enough. She said that since I like Billy Collins, I'd like Tony Hoagland. Don't recall every hearing of him before. She told me about his deft humor, his sparkling imagery, his stark honesty, his nuanced take on the arc of life. She was right on all counts!
Michael
I liked these bawdy, honest, clear poems very much. It is an unusual voice that the poet writes in - very distinctive. At many of them - in the first lines I would feel a smile play across my face - at the end I would find a surprise that would catch my breath, or cause me to laugh out loud, or to scratch my head. Amazing.
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  • What the Living Do: Poems
  • Song
  • What We Carry
  • The Selected Levis
  • Some Ether
  • Skid
  • What Work Is: Poems
  • Late Wife
  • The Great Fires
  • Field Guide
  • All-American Poem
  • The City in Which I Love You
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • The Country Between Us
  • The Wellspring
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
Anthony Dey Hoagland's father was an Army doctor and Hoagland grew up on various military bases throughout the South. He was educated at Williams College, the University of Iowa (B.A.), and the University of Arizona (M.F.A.). According to the novelist Don Lee, Hoagland "attended and dropped out of several colleges, picked apples and cherries in the Northwest, lived in communes, [and:] followed the...more
More about Tony Hoagland...
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“Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness.
As long as there is desire, we will not be safe”
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