In poetry that draws on memoir, interviews, customer questionnaires, Havelock Ellis, descriptions of prison tats, and local legal codes, Donovan Hufnagle shows us how tattoos are life stories in the flesh. Using language that is always interesting, even astounding, he demonstrates the ways tattoos function as metaphor and metonym: we want to make our plans indelible, later to find them in need of revision, deletion, or acceptance.--Joseph Harrington, author of Of Some Sky and Things Come On (an amneoir)
Donovan Hufnagle has assembled a careful poetic ethnography of tattooed bodies and the stories that they tell. Just as the tattoo inscribes meaning on the body, this book elegantly reveals the stories that only the body can tell. It is a book that connects tattoo adorned bodies to a profound human truth: we are each other’s mirrors, and the artful inscriptions of our bodies connect us to each other in ways that transcend political and social divides. This is an urgent book that does what only the best poetry can do; it opens spaces for conversation, connection, and healing.--Kristin Prevallet, author of I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time.
There is nothing more intimate than skin. In this way, Donovan Hufnagle’s latest poetry collection is staggeringly intimate. In it we find ourselves rifling through the back-office desk in the tattoo parlor, uncovering the story of skin in the artifacts, scraps, and half-thoughts we find there. Raw is a mythic space of tattoos, artists, and their stories. A tattoo-artist narrator in one poem tells us the secret he’s keeping from the girl considering the dragonfly tattoo, that “ink cuts away your flesh. I cut and burn you.” In this strikingly intimate space, we discover a truth only poetry can tell. The truth is that this will fuck us up, it will hurt, and we will be scarred for life. Like ink that tunnels through flesh, Hufnagle’s poems leave channels in the mind. Rivers of truth that allow us to consider the nature of skin, and pain, and the desire underneath it all.--Susan Ayotte Norman, author of 26 Queens
It’s often said that great art arrives at the intersection of experience, imagination, and discovery. Or maybe I’m the only one who says that. It’s still true. In The Sunshine Special Donovan Hufnagle combines these elements and others to create an art document that defies conventional description. I’m reminded of the powerful work of James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, or Phillip Levine’s gritty elegies to the working class of America. Part personal narrative, epic poem, and historical artifact, this book re-creates a timeless American story with sincerity, courage, and grit. It is a love letter to the past, real and imagined, with surprises on every page.--Matt Bondurant, author of The Third Translation, The Wettest County in the World (Lawless) & The Night Swimmer.
Culled and conjured from an ancestral archive, these epistolary and daybook poems trace one man’s travel from Texas to California in 1920 as well as his decision to leave the family home and business. ‘I read somewhere that American men/ have no history of themselves as men—as we haven’t known what questions to ask,’ the narrator muses. And yet Donovan Hufnagle’s The Sunshine Special poses many important questions about the myth of the American west and its relation to American masculinity in a sustained poetic inquiry that unspools against a strangely gendered landscape of both aridness and promise.--Susan Briante, author of Pioneers in the Study of Motion, Utopia Minus & The Market Wonders.
The Sunshine Special is a brilliant and well-constructed rendering of the poet's search for his familial past. In a series of tender correspondences, and collective memories, Hufnagle sutures together a compelling narrative that elevates archive to high art. A fantastic and rare kind of book I cannot recommend enough.--Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Breathing, In Dust, Skin Tax, Culture of Flow, Natural Takeover of Small Things, Mañana Means Heaven & All They Will Call You.
Rifle through this Shoebox to discover the grain realities layered between a family's grand hopes. Told in documents that connect two lines and two countries, Hufnagle drops epistolary clues that guide readers to reconstruct the story of Juliana, a Russian adoptee. Vivid voices, braided motifs, and emotional depths await those who eavesdrop upon these intersecting lives. An absorbing read that juxtaposes past and present, love and lack, in language that startles. -- Rebecca Balcarcel, author of The Other Half of Happy