After the Lost War ePUB
by Andrew Hudgins
Andrew Hudgins, After the Lost War: A Narrative (Houghton Mifflin, 1988)
I read Hudgins' collection The Never-Ending a few months back, and after I had finished praising it, a friend of mine told me that I had to read After the Lost War as soon as possible. Well, I just finished it.
Houghton Mifflin bought centuries off the time they will spend in purgatory for all those dry-as-dust textbooks with this collection. Hudgins based this series of poems loosely on the life of Civil War veteran, novelist, and flautist Sidney Lanier, but really, the subject matter could have been anything from primordial ooze to particle physics. The greatness of the work here is in the construction of the poetry itself. The entire book is in blank verse, but a sort of sprung blank verse (through not as loose as the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins) that rhymes every once in a while. Nonrhyming poetry that rhymes every once in a while is one of the great no-nos of poetry; it speaks to a lack of attention paid to the details of craft. Before free verse became so popular, it was also not advisable to write in, say, iambic tetrameter and then suddenly throw in a line of iambic pentameter. Hudgins does both of these things, seemingly at will, and even the most astute reader will likely skim right by them without even noticing there's been a rhyme, or a break in the rhythm.
Hudgins, in these poems, is so completely attuned to the beauty of the language he's using and the natural flow of the words that the anomalies within them take on, at best, minimal significance. Hudgins manages to do a number of things that, these days, seem nearly impossible: breaks the rules of both free-verse and metric poetry, complete an epic-length series (144 pages) of related poems and keep them readable, and manage the whole way not to drop a single syllable, not include a single throwaway word. I only have a thousand words for this review, and a thousand words is not nearly enough to describe the beautiful intricacies of the construction here, the many parallels that run through the book and the way the lengths of the poems expand and contract depending on what's going on in Hudgins' life; someone, someday soon, will use this book to write a critical thesis. It will be very long.
Upon the release of After the Lost War, one reviewer in the Denver Post called it "one of the best narrative poems to appear in this country in more than thirty years." Indeed. Easily one of the finest books, in any genre, I have read this year. **** ½
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