Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Eric Hoffman


Things Like This Happen All the Time
Copyright © 2000
by Eric Hoffman
Lone Willow P

Great poetry, like great song stylings — say by Ray Charles or Aretha Franklin — derives first and foremost from great feeling, and without that feeling, all the technical virtuosity in the world cannot save one. Eric Hoffman knows that — in his bones and in his soul. These poems present a large worldly experience, both spontaneously joyous and frankly tragic. Hoffman has something of Richard Hugo’s seen-it-all toughness and something of the lonely suffering of the early James Wright, but what distinguishes his poetic voice is a startling fusion of sweetness of temper and of emotional vulnerability. Add to that stylistic economy and an impassioned concern for craft and you have an idea of what to expect from these poems. But the salient feature is feeling — great feeling, imaginatively embodied. — Clif Mason

These poems by Eric Hoffman range over their subject matter with the constant homage of their close attention. Nothing is beneath their notice. Their language is alert and probing, their metaphors apt and immediate (“Your voice sounded small/as the eye of a needle/against this morning’s rain”). From the title poem’s meditation of a fatal highway accident to such monologues and narratives as “Dead Wolf on a Lonely Road” and “The Big Nowhere,” many of the poems are concerned with travel, flight, return, the self defined in relation to landscape. In “Preservation," a homage to William Stafford, Hoffman sees Stafford’s legacy as “a way/of listening to what the world must hear.” With this collection Hoffman stakes a claim to that legacy. — Roy Scheele

In this first book of poems, Eric Hoffman registers himself as a poet who has an ear for the American west, its spiritual whisper buried deeply in the bedrock of the Midwest. The shock of settlement, of machines, and of people yearning for a home have built a highway through his heart, a thick artery of compassion. In this book we travel humble landscapes — the Kansas and Nebraska of our lives — made sacramental by a poet’s feeling and imagination. Hoffman salvages what is mortal, preserves the music gone unheard and christens the Big Nowhere. He has given a new and tender voice to what it means to be lonely in America. — Carol Ann Russell

Hoffman’s ability to capture the humanity of rare moments is evident. In the poem “Early,” about watching his wife feed their baby, Hoffman conveys their unexplained but visceral happiness. “I am drunk from merely breathing / She looks to me, and the sound / her child’s hand makes / when he touches her / fills the air.” It’s a lovely poem. In “Graves,” Hoffman briefly meditates on the fact that his generation does not know war and therefore must read about it to explore the scope of human existence. The poets Roy Scheele and Carol Ann Russell applaud Hoffman on the back of his book. It is no wonder why. — Christine Pappas, Plain Songs Review

From Lone Willow Press in Omaha comes a beautifully printed poetry chapbook by Eric R. Hoffman, Things Like This Happen All The Time. These poems deal with loss, and trips to and from relationships that range from Kansas and Nebraska west to the coast. Many of the poems are dark, but bright spots flash when he appreciates a moment in nature, when he is with his daughter, and when he is going home. — Dick Allen, the NCB News.

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