O, and Green

THE BOOK: O, and Green: New and Selected Poems.

PUBLISHED IN: Fall 2021.

THE AUTHOR: Paul Hoover.

THE EDITOR: Marc Vincenz.


SUMMARY: Poems selected from my most recent six poetry books: The Book of Unnamed Things (2018), Desolation: Souvenir (2012), Sonnet 56 (2009), Edge and Fold (2006), Poems in Spanish (2005), Winter (Mirror), 2002, and Rehearsal in Black (2001). It concludes with Gravity’s Children (new poems based loosely on the Old Testament). Totem and Shadow: New & Selected Poems (1999) contained work produced, 1979 to 1999.

THE BACK STORY: It was time in my long career to produce a second volume of selected poems. My production has been increasingly lyrical in approach since I co-translated Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin (2008) with Maxine Chernoff. It represents a variety of approaches, from the serial poems of Edge and Fold and Desolation: Souvenir to the proceduralism of Poems in Spanish (poems written in English as if in Spanish) and Sonnet 56 (56 formal variations on Shakespeare’s sonnet that number). The new poems of Gravity’s Children took the longest time to produce, roughly twenty years, and remains unpublished as a book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: “O, and Green” is the title of one of the poems in Winter (Mirror). In a reading online to celebrate the book’s publication, the poet Gillian Conoley made note of the interruptive comma in the book’s title, which she sees as a self-consciously postmodern literary move, separating the exclamatory “O” of literature from the everyday greenness of the earth.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? For its formal invention, its lyricism and personal directness, and sense of humor.


Marjorie Perloff wrote the following: ” ‘Scoured by sound / and the scent of distance’ Paul Hoover’s remarkable poems have presented us with startling sonic interventions and the “scent” of distant worlds and new possibilities. His terse, tightly packed lines, often arranged in triads, carry on, more than any other lyric I’ve seen, the Williams tradition: “the more you / watch the cat, / the more abstract / it gets.” But Hoover is also a visionary, and his recent poems take on a more spiritual cast, turning, as they do, to the Hebrew Prophets and to Last Things and Death.

“The mole,” the poet observes in the painfully moving, “To the Choirmaster,” “sleeps in a hole of its own making, / and the hole also lives; absence is not nothing.” O, and Green presents Paul Hoover at the very top of his game. Andrei Codrescu: Enclosed in the hard, musical nutshell of Paul Hoover poems is a rich, sweet, bitter, philosophical and deeply personal flesh. Like a clear-cut wound under its austere shelter, it sometimes allows itself to be seen. Time stands still just long enough to be endured in its easing of words, then another portal opens, and another, always full and precise, nothing wasted. The vast culture of its fibers alone is enough to tell the story of poetry now. This collection is a cornucopia that also gifts the reader with the weave of the basket it spills from. Rereading Hoover’s work pays off every time, and it will do so forever.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 1946 and graduated from Manchester College in Indiana in 1968. Immediately following graduation, I moved to Chicago to serve as a conscientious objector at Wesley Memorial Hospital during the Vietnam War. This experience became the subject of my novel, Saigon, Illinois (Vintage Contemporaries, 1988), a chapter of which appeared in The New Yorker. In 2018, Carbonio Editore of Milan published the book in Italian translation. My father, Robert Hoover, was a pastor of the Church of the Brethren, which is pacifist in belief. My mother, Opal, was an elementary school teacher and author of the children’s book, The Roads to Everywhere. We lived primarily in the rural Midwest, moving every 3-5 years as my father accepted a pastorate in a new place.

I’m married to the poet and fiction writer, Maxine Chernoff, whom I met at a Chicago Halloween poetry reading. We have three children, Koren, Philip, and Julian. After teaching for 30 years at Columbia College Chicago, I accepted a position at San Francisco State University, where I still teach. The previous Creative Writing chair, Frances Mayes, had just written Under the Tuscan Sun, which became a bestseller. Maxine and I attended her surprise wedding (it was supposed to be just an afternoon party) to Ed Kleinschmidt in their mansion in Saint Francis Wood.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My plan of being a poet was constantly being interrupted by other related activities, such as editing two editions of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (1994/2013), and the literary magazine, New American Writing. I also began translating other work than Hölderlin, primarily from Spanish and Vietnamese. This resulted in The Complete Poems of San Juan de la Cruz (Milkweed Editions, 2021) edited and translated with the Mexican poet, María Baranda; The New World Written: Selected Poems of Maria Baranda (Yale University Press, 2021); and Beyond the Court Gate: Selected Poems of Nguyen Trai, edited and translated with Nguyen Do (Counterpath Press, 2011) Due initially to the postmodern anthology, I was invited to conferences in Brazil, Argentina, China, Russia, Scotland, England, Belgium, Vietnam, Lithuania, and Uruguay, which encouraged even more translation. Maxine and I were the first non-Chinese to attend the annual meeting of Chinese poets of the world, held in Dali, Yunnan Province, in 2005.

I have even incorporated translation activities, such as purposeful mistranslation, as part of my teaching and writing philosophy. I ascribe to W. H. Auden’s insistence that, among other things, poets should learn to cook, travel widely, and translate poetry of another language.

Poem in Spanish

I have two coffins but only one wife,
who loves me like a neighbor.
I have one wing and a long flight scheduled.

I have two sons and the time of day,
its late hour dark in a brilliant landscape.

I have a small religion based on silence
and a furious heart beating. I have a map
of the region where the kiss is deepest,
a duplex cathedral for my hells and heavens,
and one oily feather. No matter how I settle,
the world keeps moving at its famous pace.

I have two minds and an eye for seeing
the world’s singular problems as my self-portrait.
I have fuzzy lightning and a pair of old glasses.

I have two radios but only one message,
subtle in transmission, arriving like wine.
I have yo tengo and two tambiens.
The world between them creaks
like distance and difference.

I have two fires and a very sleepy fireman,
immortal longings and one life only,
unliving and undying.


Simple things like bread,
you can’t even think about them.

The lesson of skin touching skin,
the lesson of earth as it rolls in darkness,
the lesson of things as they are.

The mind collapses under the weight
of so much thinking. It’s almost tragic.

The road has no thought of distance.

The road is just the road.

Words don’t think us,
words on a table among the other meats,
words like summers passing.

In blue organdy dresses,
the policemen are euphoric.

Transparent and irreverent,
the wide face of lightning
is pressed to water’s surface.

The century is thick with history
and the worst of intentions.

The very worst intentions,
and all I can drink lately
is the filthy holy water.

The Mill

This is the evening when a bird nests in a hat
left in the street by a flying man, a man of worlds and heat,
of vellum and fog and sculptures that lurk when
we’re not looking, this is the evening.

This is the moment when traffic passes as I have taught it to pass,
as I have learned the way, this is the moment.
This is the place where snow was invented.

This is the town it falls on, consisting of three houses
with plastic lights in the doorway, a man who touches his woman
as she likes to be touched—no matter how warm, always snow—
and the hand that turns the world, this is the place.

This is the life that keeps me awake at night,
its distances and skin, and this is time with its foot in a crack,
unable to move yet passing, this is the life.

This is the hour when the crime was committed;
this is the first cause watching. This is the river drowning
and a filthy shadow washing its hands, this is the hour.

This is the little fish eating the big one. This is the man
who lives by the tracks; this is the train passing.

This is the mill where grain was turned, this is the grain
unfinished, and this is the empty bed of the stream
that used to turn the wheel, this is the mill of absence.

LOCAL OUTLETS: City Lights Bookstore and Green Apple Books, SF.


PRICE: $22.95 / 275 pages.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: viridian@sfsu.com; http://www.newamericanwriting.com.

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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