Tony Hoagland, witty, prize-winning poet, dead at 64

NEW YORK (AP) — Tony Hoagland, a prize-winning poet admired for his candor and sharp, off-beat humor, has died at age 64.

Jeff Shotts, executive editor of Graywolf Press, told The Associated Press that Hoagland died Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

A native of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Hoagland published several works of poetry and essays about poetry. The titles helped sum up his take on life: “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty,” ”Application for Release from the Dream” and “Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God,” which came out in June. Three of his books had been released since 2015.

“It was a long battle with cancer, and he cheated it a couple of times,” Shotts said. “He was very productive near the end and I think the work helped keep him alive.”

His style could be off-hand and unpredictable. In the poem “A Color in the Sky,” his thoughts wander from love and sex to a dogwood tree between a police station and liquor store that is “losing its mind.”

Hoagland was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for his 2003 collection “What Narcissism Means to Me,” and his other honors included the Jackson Prize, given to poets of “exceptional talent” who deserve greater attention. Prize judges called him a “poet of risk.”

“He risks wild laughter in poems that are totally heartfelt,” the citation read, “poems you want to read out loud to anyone who needs to know the score and even more so to those who think they know the score.”

Hoagland attended several colleges and received an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona. He taught writing at the University of Houston and at Warren Wilson College outside of Asheville, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife, the writer Kathleen Lee, and a brother, Christopher.

The poet reflected on mortality in the recent poem “I Have Good News,” in which he confides his feelings about being sick for “the last time.”

“You will begin to see the plants and flowers of your youth,

And they will look as new to you as they did back then?_?

little lavender bouquets arranged in solar systems

delicate beyond your comprehension”

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