cover image Second Empire

Second Empire

Richie Hofmann. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-16-9

Through variations on the sonnet, Hofmann obsesses over what has been, in a debut collection that feels like a lost manuscript of early modernism, with its insecurities over lust and love and history, where emotion becomes an object to fear and respect. In a poem that uses the mating rituals of cranes to discuss the beauty and futility of lifelong monogamy, Hoffman reveals that “there is freedom/ in submitting to another.” And Hofmann submits to his project by bridging the mating birds with the writing of Hart Crane. Hofmann shares Crane’s formal tightness, sensuality of language, and obsession with love and history and how they relate to being modern. But to call him a mere Crane acolyte would diminish Hofmann’s talents. Crane was the romantic modernist who cared about the person within and perfected a mode of lush and unapologetically baroque writing that is mostly out of fashion today. Hofmann is relighting the torch that Crane extinguished when he committed suicide by leaping into the sea; he is taking the sexual longing that permeated Crane and laying it bare. Hofmann “wanted/ the alchemy of someone else/ to rise” in him, and it seems he may have found that someone. (Nov.)