© 2021 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations


Today’s poem is “Muchness” by Tony Hoagland. He teaches at the University of Houston and is the author of 5 books of poetry, most recently Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty (2010). Before moving to Texas, he lived in Waterville for 8 years and taught at Colby and the University of Maine Farmington.

He writes: “From the very early days of our being together, I have been tryng to write a poem for my partner Katheen, trying to make a thing -- a thing that would be honest and elegant --that could show some part of my admiration for her. What is amazing is how rarely I have suceceded in that project (I am still trying).

In this poem, "Muchness," --which I know is not elegant, but very plainspoken,-- the speaker of the poem has to give up on his goal at a certain point, and just admit the limits of his ability-- the only word he can find for his feelings is just that fairly dumb word, Muchness.

But what also comes into the poem is the green landscape of the present moment, the forest and water, and the way that the landscape itself warrants praise on its own account.”

by Tony Hoagland

I saw you in the rainy morning
from the window of the hotel room,
running down the gangplank to board the boat.
You were wearing your famous orange pants,
which are really apricot,
and the boat rocked a little
as you stepped on its edge.

You were going to work
with your backpack and sketchbook
and your bushy gray hair
which bursts out in weather
like a steel-wool bouquet.

That’s how my heart is, I thought,
as your boat pulled away.
It lies coiled up inside of me, asleep,
then springs out and shocks me

with all of its muchness.
Then there was just the gray sheen
of the harbor left behind, like unpolished steel

and the steep green woods that grown down to the shore
and the gauze of mist on the hills.

It was your vanished boat
which gave the scene a shape,
with its suggestion of journey and destination.

And the narrative then, having done its work,
it vanished too,
leaving just its affectionate cousin description behind;

which lingers,
and loves for no reason.

Poem copyright © 2010 Tony Hoagland.
Reprinted from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty
Graywolf Press, 2010, by permission of Tony Hoagland.