Summer is one of the happiest seasons at Tweetspeak Poetry, because it is the season of Take Your Poet to Work Day (or, you know, to the beach). It’s one thing to start every day with a poem (we recommend it). But how great would it be to start your day with a poet? On Take Your Poet to Work Day, we encourage people around the world to take their favorite poet to work for the day.
Take Your Poet to Work Day is coming July 17, 2019
To help you play and celebrate with us, we’re releasing poets each week in a compact, convenient format you can tuck in your pocket, tool belt, or lunchbox.
We even released a full collection, The Haiku Masters: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa.
In 2015, we introduced the Bard of Avon William Shakespeare, beloved poet Maya Angelou, and iconic American poet Robert Frost, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, and America’s poet, Walt Whitman.
In 2016, English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, joined in, along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Irish poet Seamus Heaney, and English poet and novelist Emily Brontë, Australian poet and activist Judith Wright, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Because you can never have too many poets in your lunch box (or your desk drawer), we also do a school-year celebration in April—Take Your Poet to School Week—with some favorites for the younger (and younger-at-heart) poetry readers: Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, Robert Louis Stevenson and the always delightful Mother Goose.
This year, we feature some of our recently lost American national treasures, like C.D. Wright and today’s new release, Tony Hoagland.
Take Your Poet to Work: Tony Hoagland
Tony Hoagland was born November 19, 1953, in Fort Bragg, NC, to mother Patricia and father Peter (an Army doctor). He grew up on military bases in Hawaii, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Ethiopia.
“My parents were disconnected from their parents,” he said. “We were middle class. There was no religion in my family. So there was an absence of ceremonial knowledge, there was an absence of inherited knowledge, there was an absence of family stories, and there was an absence of instruction. … I got deeper and deeper into the world of poetry, simply because it was the only thing that stayed constant in my life continuously, year after year, and then decade after decade.”
He dropped out of Williams College before getting his degree from the University of Iowa and his MFA from the University of Arizona, then publishing seven poetry books and seven chapbooks, as well as two essay collections. Titles include Donkey Gospel (1998), What Narcissism Means to Me (2003), Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty (2010), and Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God (2018).
Hoagland didn’t want to exclude anyone from poetry and didn’t want people to take his work too seriously. His poems ranged from the biographical to the broadly social, combining precise and everyday imagery and a deep appreciation for nature with thoughtful intelligence, critique, and humor. “I’m proud to be a funny poet,” he said. “Humor in poetry is even better than beauty…because it doesn’t put people to sleep. It wakes them up and relaxes them at the same time.”
Hoagland taught creative writing at the University of Houston and was on the faculty of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program. He received NEA grants and a Guggenheim fellowship. He was married to fiction, essay, and travel writer Kathleen Lee. He died in Santa Fe on October 23, 2018, from pancreatic cancer at the age of 64.
She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,
windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.
She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
because it wasn’t there.
No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.
Get your own Tony Hoagland — Take Your Poet to Work Printable that you can print, color, and cut out for the big day.
Illustrations by Will Willingham.