“myrhh, who is from portland, tells me how sometimes
oregonians see the ghost of tonya practicing in the mall skating rink,
even though she’s not dead. we are all so afraid of ghosts —
am i afraid of you, tonya? is that why i write about you?”
— from “In Which I Insert Myself Into the Narrative”
An ode to the underdogs, an excavation of violence, Sentimental Violence (Ghost City Press, 2020) is a collectively held breath as we watch “over & again / the best moment of a life” before an impending doom. Hogan’s micro-chap is a VHS tape buried with the home movies, ready to be played and paused and rewound until it falls apart.
The poems housed in Sentimental Violence pulse with the energy of a packed arena where “the t-shirt cannon of a heart runs on hope fumes” with the speakers of the poems often acting as commentators themselves:
“the lack of a foot stutter, the relaxed swing
of a leg, one, two, until the skate presses
down, bites the ice hard but releases harder,
& each spin – goddammit! each spin is a legacy.”
In these moments, it is impossible to ignore the exuberance that drips from the page. As we all know, though, joy does not exist without violence — not for Tonya, and not for any of us.
By “rehashing” — as Hogan puts it in “In Which I Insert Myself Into the Narrative” — one of figure skating’s most highly publicized events, Hogan has crafted an affectionate apology and a case study in the intersections of “class, gender, & media” and “how quickly we make things ugly.”
As Hogan states in her author biography, “this is kind of her thing” and it absolutely shows.