cover image A Hundred Lovers

A Hundred Lovers

Richie Hofmann. Knopf, $28 (80p) ISBN 978-0-593-32098-3

The sensuous second collection from Hofmann (Second Empire) catalogs the tastes, textures, scents, and sounds of queer love, sex, and heartache. “Light shone through the glass of our apartment,” he writes. “You had been showering,/ the smell of mint invaded the room, your hair was wet.” It would be easy to call this a book of love poems, but love, in Hofmann’s writing, is an inadequate construct. “I wanted to feel tenderness,” he writes in “Underground,” “but the love everyone was seeking/ I already owned.” Nearly every poem addresses an unnamed lover, but the focus is on the speaker’s own experience and senses. These are corporeal poems that find their players yearning, yawning, aroused under a chestnut tree, dressed in linens, fed on cheese and apples, mourning, smelling of ferns. Just as Hofmann’s book bears witness to the richness of sexuality, it also explores the entrapments of shame, the devastation of heartbreak, and the difficult emotional work that relationships require. “To give oneself to a hundred lovers: hard,” he writes. “To give oneself to one: also hard.” This offers an entrancing testament to the pleasures and pains of human connection. (Feb.)