Cover image for Ecstatic in the poison : new poems
Ecstatic in the poison : new poems
Hudgins, Andrew.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
91 pages ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3558.U288 E23 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Drawing on events of childhood and of later years, as well as the real and imagined lives of others, Hudgins brings to life a rich, comedic, and haunting variety of characters: among them a prankster who disassembles a Cadillac and rebuilds it in his attic, Russian soldiers on the verge of execution, frenzied inhabitants of Sodom, along with middle-class husbands, wives, and children. Cameo appearances by Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus, God strolling in the Garden of Eden, and Josef Stalin lead the reader through the epochs. In Hudgins's adroit hands, a lake, and even a joke become personified.

Author Notes

Andrew Hudgins teaches at the University of Cincinnati & lives in that city with his wife, the novelist Erin McGraw.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the midst of life, we are in death often seems to be Hudgins' motto, yet no contemporary poet of his distinction writes more of joy and wonder. What he says of his child self in Blur, one of the masterpieces in his sixth collection, remains true of him: I understood with horror then with joy, / dubious and luminous joy: it the earth simply spins. . . . / It was my duty to stay awake / and sing if I could keep my mind on singing. He has so kept his mind, and in this book he sings literally more than ever before, for many poems here are made of ballad-like quatrains, complete with rhyming second and fourth lines. He sings the context of the odd conception of the book's title in a poem about children dropping their toys to go dance behind a fog truck --spraying DDT. He sings of the mordant joke left behind by a tenant who moved out, died, disappeared : namely, a Cadillac in the attic! He becomes a lake singing to a sleepless child, calling her to play, to be sure, but also to fly deeper, / deeper down, / . . and rise forever / on the dark, unhurried waters of descending. He sings, unforgettably, and as Blur attests, of joy in the face of understanding. --Ray Olson Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Known for his work in narrative verse, Hudgins (After the Lost War) mixes taut anecdotes and autobiography with more lyrical work in this sixth effort. The poems continue his attention to middle- and working-class American life, his interest in biblical allegory, and his command of traditional rhyming forms. The memorable title poem recalls kids playing in fog left by DDT trucks; "Come to Harm" considers comedy, grief at the death of parents and interstate car trips: "We sang. We laughed. She died. I wept." Both poems, like almost half the book, skillfully use Hudgins' oft-employed ballad- or hymn-based quatrains and demotic, casual American diction. Hudgins also weaves in Homeric or otherwise archaic effects, while a series of poems about burials and divine retributions (an ancient Russian king; the story of Lot in Sodom) achieve a grim effectiveness that recalls Tom Sleigh's recent work. A third group of poems (scattered throughout the volume) seek lighter topics or tones: "A Joke Walks into a Bar" seeks, and finds, the kind of comic parable associated with Stephen Dobyns, or even Billy Collins, though several poems explicitly about the writing of poetry or (worse) about poetry workshops and classes, offer overfamiliar sentiments. More often, Hudgins participates in traditions of midlife autobiography and eschatology (where "Our nightmares/ alter the historical report") or tracking down, through his speaker's life and other people's lives, "desire, which/ is appetite,/ which is the snake/ that feeds then starves us." (Aug.) Forecast: Hudgins's first books placed him firmly among other Southern, so-called New Formalist, poets of the '80s; his work has aged better than most of his peers', and should command strong regional attention, though this volume seems more likely to solidify his reputation than to expand his existing audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his sixth collection, Hudgins (Babylon in a Jar) breaks away from the narrative form he mastered in his earlier work to take a more personal stance, producing a frustrating collection that exposes the limits of both approaches. "Simplify the action and complicate the motivation," he advises in "Workshop," a tongue-in-cheek poem about the writing process. Too often he takes his own advice, resulting in elliptical poems that hint at a story but leave far too much to the reader's imagination. Surprisingly, he's at his best when writing rhymed quatrains. While American poets often resort to rhyme in order to elevate the inconsequential, Hudgins at his best uses it to restrain, to keep some sense of order in a chaotic life. We see parents coming to blows over money, and his mother's premonitions of her father's death. But a handful of interesting poems aren't enough to carry this facile volume. Recommended only where Hudgins's previous books have been popular.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Inp. 13
I The Snakep. 17
The Lake Sings to the Sleepless Childp. 19
Beneath the Applep. 21
The Cadillac in the Atticp. 23
Day Job and Night Jobp. 24
The Ship Made for Burningp. 26
Embroidering My Thesisp. 28
The Childrenp. 30
Southern Literaturep. 32
The Chinaberry Treesp. 34
Arcadiap. 37
The White Horsep. 39
II Grandma's Toenailsp. 43
Come to Harmp. 44
The Weight of the Rainp. 46
Coins and Ashesp. 48
The God of Frenziesp. 50
Two Strangers Enter Sodomp. 51
Bucephalusp. 53
Behemoth and Leviathanp. 54
Beatitudesp. 56
Silverp. 57
In the Cool of the Eveningp. 59
The Aiming Markp. 60
The Fourth Year of an Eight-Year Droughtp. 62
Under the Influence of a Minor Demonp. 64
Cattailsp. 65
Land of the White Crowsp. 67
III A Flag of Honeysucklep. 71
Mangop. 73
Asleep with the Dogp. 75
Flamingoes Have Arrived in Ashtabulap. 76
Sun through Sunflowersp. 78
Wasps in Augustp. 79
A Joke Walks into a Barp. 80
After Workshopp. 82
The Poet Asserteth Nothingp. 83
The Long Shipp. 84
Piss Christp. 85
Blurp. 86
The Hawk above the Housep. 88
Outp. 91