John Hodgen lives in Shrewbury, MA, holds a Master’s Degree in English from Assumption College, and teaches at Mount Wachusett Community College and the Worcester Art Museum.  He is the author of In My Father’s House (winner of the 1993 Bluestem Award from Emporia State University in Kansas) and Bread Without Sorrow (2002, Lynx House Press / Christopher Howell, 420 West 24th St., Spokane, WA 99203, ISBN# 0-89924-112-3.)
     He has won the Grolier Prize for Poetry, an Arvon Foundation Award, the Yankee Magazine Award for Poetry, first prize in the Red Brick Review poetry competition, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Finalist Award in Poetry in 2000.  Several of his poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, and he was one of five finalists in the Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship Program.  He was a finalist in Houghton Mifflin’s New Poetry Series, Cleveland State University’s Poetry Center Prize, Carnegie Mellon University’s Poetry Series, and Northeastern University’s Samuel French Morse Poetry Award.
     John’s work has been included in the anthologies Witness and Wait: Thirteen Poets From New England and Something Understood (Every Other Thursday Press, Cambridge, MA, 1989, 1996); We Teach Them All: Teachers Writing About Diversity (Stenhouse Publishers, York, Maine, 1996); and Bone Cages (Haley Press, Athol, MA, 1996).

Samples of the poet’s work:

Click on one of the links below to hear the poem, as read by John at OpenMike Poetry:
ASF audio ("streaming" audio, lower quality sound)   [alternate ASF audio]
MPEG-3 audio file (larger file, higher quality sound)
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Forgiving Buckner

The world is always rolling between our legs.
It comes for us, dribbler, slow roller,
humming its goat song, easy as pie.
We spit in our gloves, bend our stiff knees,
keep it in front of us, our fathers' advice,
but we miss it every time, its physic, its science,
and it bleeds on through, blue streak, heart sore,
to the four-leaf clovers deep in right field.
The runner scores, knight in white armor,
the others out leaping, bumptious, gladhanding,
your net come up empty, Jonah again.
Even the dance of the dead won't come near you,
heart in your throat, holy of holies,
the oh of your mouth as the stone rolls away,
as if it had come from before you were born
to roll past your life to the end of the world,
till the world comes around again, gathering steam,
heading right for us again and again,
faith of our fathers, world without end.

Click on one of the links below to hear the poem, as read by John at OpenMike Poetry:
ASF audio ("streaming" audio, lower quality sound)   [alternate ASF audio]
MPEG-3 audio file (larger file, higher quality sound)
(more info on audio links)
My Father Swearing

Bitch, he’d say, always, when he could not work the wood his way,
bitch, as if there were a goddess of all his troubles, grinning,
a woman at the wellspring who skewed the nail, split the joist,
drove his hefted hopes deep into the ground,
bitch, his woe, his wound, his eldest curse.

And we would gather, hidden, my brothers and I,
huddled like shepherds by the door to the shed
to hearken to the litany surely to follow, the dam that would burst,
his power and rage, hammer and tongue.

Bastard then, predictably, and a marriage was made,
like an Adam come lately to a paradise of swearing,
the bitch and the bastard driven out of the garden
to bedevil him further, to beat the bejesus,
like a two-headed god, both mouths washed out with soap,
come to witness, come to share in the blame.

Then son of a bitch, and it all became clear,
a family, procreation, the Gilgamesh epic,
a new generation gathered against him,
and we were the children and he was the father
as he battered the wood, the precision gone out,
gone into the word, the word become flesh.

Then, always, incarnate, the rhythm established,
a flurry, a billingsgate of bitch of a bitch,
and bitch of a bastard, and son of a bitch of a bitch
of a bastard. There structure was born,
prepositional phrases, like blue Chinese lanterns hung out
beneath the moon, this swearing to God, this awful begatting.

We broke at that point, skedaddled, running off to the lilacs,
covering our mouths for fear we’d be heard,
to say in that darkness what was forbidden in the light,
a language mixed with laughter lifting up between the trees,
a forefathers’ song, the words that made the world.

Click on one of the links below to hear the poem, as read by John at OpenMike Poetry:
ASF audio ("streaming" audio, lower quality sound)   [alternate ASF audio]
MPEG-3 audio file (larger file, higher quality sound)
(more info on audio links)
The Sound that the Earth Makes
(AP) - Scientists report that each planet gives off
its own peculiar sound.  One scientist described
the sound that the earth makes as “sad.”
I do not know where the old men go
when they walk out alone in the night.
I know they must carry the weight of their lives
in the curl of their sullied and empty hands.
I know that their children have gone out of them
and are lost in the world, are ineffably lost.
I know that the wives live their measure of sadness,
that their hands are both busy and breaking.

I know that the old men walk out in the night
to escape from the clatter of young men and talking,
that they stand by themselves in the darkness,
that they hold what is in them for as long as they can,
that a sound rises up from them, awkward and lonely,
drifts through the fields like the cry of a night owl,
lifts like a stillness gone up from the trees,
to where they are going, to where they remember,
to the endless river of stars.


We are our parents now, my wife and I, afternoon naps,
our bed a soft raft on which we float,
two leaves curled up, let loose on a river.

In my dream I am sweeping leaves in the cellar,
leaves that have worked their way in somehow, a crack perhaps,
or the bulkhead as I cleaned out the gutters.
My dead father pulls up in a Mayflower van,
checks his maps, frowns.  He is still lost, says he grieves
for his country, thinks I might have a notion to move.
I say no, wave.  He pulls away empty, yellow ship, green ocean.

I wake first, watch the afternoon light on her face.
She is so still I check the rise and fall of the sheet
the way her parents must worry that one day
one or the other will not wake.  Will she die first?
I wish for her what she would wish for herself.

Her dream?  She says there are beaches in heaven,
cabanas, that it looks a little like Mexico.
I say people there might think heaven was here,
past Winslow Homer’s black man in the Gulf,
his mastless boat surrounded by sharks,
past the endless currents, the rivers of sadness,
past our parents, floating, noble and alone,
to this blanketed place in the gathering night.

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     Notes on the audio links:  The audio links for the poems lead to different file-format versions of the same audio content.  The "ASF audio" link will generate "streaming"-type audio which will download and play at the same time (no waiting!)  This seems to work best with Internet Explorer.  To play "ASF" files you'll need to have installed version 6 (or later) of the Microsoft media player, which can be downloaded from
     With some browsers, clicking on the "ASF audio" link will still bring up a "Save As..." window (even after the version 6 Microsoft media player is installed.)  If this happens, use the "Save As..." window to pick a location on your hard drive to save the file (which will end in ".asx") into; then find the file with the "Windows Explorer" and double-click on it to download and play the content.  (Granted, this is not the most elegant work-around; but it's still faster than waiting for the entire audio download to finish before playing it.)
     The "MPEG-3 audio file" link allows you to download a higher-quality MPEG-3 version of the audio (but you have to wait until the download is complete before playing the content.)  The version 6 Microsoft media player will play MPEG-3 files.  The Winamp player will also play these.  (The smaller-sized "alternate ASF audio" files can also be played using MPEG-3 players.)
     The "ASF" file was generated using the Windows Media Encoder found in the Media Tools which can be downloaded from