Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Dickhead" - Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland was born in 1953 in North Carolina where he was born and raised. In his poetry, Tony looks at subjects in a new and usually funny point of view. He appears to be extremely intune with the language and jargon of the American people.


To whomever taught me the word dickhead,
I owe a debt of thanks.
It gave me a way of being in the world of men
when I most needed one,

when I was pale and scrawny,
naked, goosefleshed
as a plucked chicken
in a supermarket cooler, a poor

forked thing stranded in the savage
universe of puberty, where wild
jockstraps flew across the steamy

skies of locker rooms,
and everybody fell down laughing
at jokes I didn’t understand.

But dickhead was a word as dumb
and democratic as a hammer, an object
you could pick up in your hand,
and swing,

saying dickhead this and dickhead that,
a song that meant the world
was yours enough at least
to bang on like a garbage can,

and knowing it, and having that
beautiful ugliness always
cocked and loaded in my mind,
protected me and calmed me like a psalm.

Now I have myself become
a beautiful ugliness,
and my weakness is a fact
so well established that
it makes me calm,

and I am calm enough
to be grateful for the lives I
never have to live again;

but I remember all the bad old days
back in the world of men,
when everything was serious, mysterious, scary,
hairier and bigger than I was;
I recall when flesh
was what I hated, feared
and was excluded from:

Hardly knowing what I did,
or what would come of it,
I made a word my friend.

Like many of his poems, Tony utilizes the American slang and instruments it into his poem "Dickhead." The poet does far more than just using it in the text but focuses the entire poem's message around it. The tone of this poem appears to be both mocking and irreverent shown by the use of crude and juvenile language "wild jockstraps flew across the steamy skies of locker rooms," "savage universe of puberty" and the word "dickhead" itself. The speaker of this poem can be identified as "weak" man attempting to find his place in "the world of man." This speaker recounts his story of how the word "dickhead" helped him to navigate this world. "The world of men" is characterized as an immature and childish but at the same time these men are portrayed as stern and serious.  His quest to belong in this world is a challenge for the speaker until he counters the word "dickhead." This word is his way of achieving passage and acceptance into the world of man and can possible allude to the speaker going through puberty and finally becoming a man. Specifically, this word acts as his way of attaining power in this society of men. he uses it to assert his authority and dominance in this world. Although the speaker is still weak in comparison to other men, he accepts that and even attempts to embrace it. He recalls the dark times when he lived in fear, but now he is no longer afraid of the overpowering men and has learned to live among them.

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