Second Empire by Richie Hofmann
The delicate arc of these poems intimates-rather than tells-a love story: celebration, fear of loss, storm, abandonment, an opening forth. Richie Hofmann disciplines his natural elegance into the sterner recognitions that matter: 'I am a little white omnivore,' the speaker of Second Empire discovers. Mastering directness and indirection, Hofmann's poems break through their own beauty."-Rosanna Warren
This debut's spare, delicate poems explore ways we experience the afterlife of beauty while ornately examining lust, loss, and identity. Drawing upon traditions of amorous sonnets, these love-elegies desire an artistic and sexual connection to others-other times, other places-in order to understand aesthetic pleasures the speaker craves. Distant and formal, the poems feel both ancient and contemporary.
The sky was crazed with swallows.
We walked in the frozen grass
of your new city, I was gauzed with sleep.
Trees shook down their gaudy nests.
The ceramic pots were caparisoned with snow.
I was jealous of the river,
how the light broke it, of the skein
of windows where we saw ourselves.
Where we walked, the ice cracked
like an antique book, opening
and closing. The leaves
beneath it were the marbled pages.
Richie Hofmann is the winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the New Yorker, Poetry, the Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University MFA program, he is currently a Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University.