American Rendering showcases twenty-four new poems as well as a generous selection from Andrew Hudgins’s six previous volumes, spanning a distinguished career of more than twenty-five years.
Hudgins, who was born in Texas and spent most of his childhood in the South, is a lively and prolific poet who draws on his vivid Southern and,more specifically, Southern Baptist, childhood. Influenced by writers such as John Crowe Ransom,William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and James Dickey, Hudgins has developed a distinctively descriptive form of the Southern Gothic imagination. His poems are rich with religious allusions, irreverent humor, and at times are inflected with a dark and violent eroticism.Of Hudgins’s most recent collection, Ecstatic in the Poison, Mark Strand wrote: [It] is full of intelligence, vitality, and grace. And there is a beautiful oddness about it.Dark moments seem charged with an eerie luminosity and the most humdrum events assume a startling lyric intensity. A deep resonant humor is everywhere, and everywhere amazing.”
Hudgins’s eighth collection and first retrospective confirms him as one of the few poets of the American South who can be both solemn and sidesplitting in a single poem. “All griefs,” he writes, “...I would rank them top/ to bottom”: “Mom dies. You lose/ a winning Lotto ticket./ A Peterbilt pancakes your cat.” Elsewhere, Hudgins demonstrates his formal skill in tandem with historical reverence: “The Names of the Lost,” a villanelle on the 1964 struggle to register black voters in Mississippi, begins, “The nights burned all night long that Freedom Summer.” Hudgins is his most astonishing when he allows himself to write outside his own experience, as when he channels Jonathan Edwards in 1749 or narrates as a confederate soldier at the Battle of the Wilderness. This is when Hudgins’s humor, as it must, disappears, leaving the poet the room he needs to wrestle—and reconcile—with all aspects of his heritage, both the Southern and the American. (Apr.)