Fragments of memory, bits of travelogue, imagistic meditations, lyric glimpses into every-day lives; these are the materials from which the poems in Doug Hoekstra’s most recent book, Unopened, are made. “It started out with some poems about family and some memories that I thought I’d just share with my son and family members,” says the singer-songwriter and award winning fiction author about his new poetry collection. “But as I kept writing, it broadened, and I ended up wanting to create something for other readers as well. So the book is structured around that first group, and I wrote outward from there.” Some of the poems have appeared previously in literary journals; many are brand new. Their presentation as a group feels much like a collage, layering experiences and themes to create motifs throughout the book’s three major sections.
Those who think poetry is, in general, difficult to read will find Hoekstra’s work quite approachable. While the poems are drawn from the particulars of Hoekstra’s life, they are about moments and experiences any reader might have: flashes of memory or beauty, grief or wonder, or perhaps all of these at once. The title poem, for instance, takes us to the discovery of an unopened copy of a record in the speaker’s parents’ basement, a moment which cascades into another which imagines the father buying the record on his lunch break some 40 years prior. In its brief narrative, the poem conveys everything about how it feels to be going through a loved one’s belongings after that person is gone.
Hoekstra favors the plain spoken over the obtuse. The language of his poetry is direct, whether making an observation about society or depicting an intimate moment with family. He names Carl Sandburg and Charles Bukowski among his many influences, and both get mention in poems here. “It’s fine to have symbols and imagery and complex meaning and all that, but in the end, you have to think about direct communication. It’s still about making a direct connection with your audience,” Hoekstra observes.
Connect with Hoekstra’s Unopened at local booksellers, including Parnassus Books and Grimey’s New and Preloved Music and Books.