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.
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
Hoffman salvages what is mortal, preserves the music gone unheard and christens the Big
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.