Crater Lake Blues
A blue, blue, blue Olympian eye;
The blue of arctic ice, refracted sky;
The blue of coolly burning distant love;
The blue in which all lonesome blues dissolve.
Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges, assistant professor in the Global Language Education Office and adjunct professor in the Division of International Studies has recently published a new collection of poetical works that he has labored over for the past 30 years. Using the old expression “Gypsy Scholar” to refer to himself, for he has taught and conducted research not only in Korea, but in many other countries as well, his poems hold deep meanings beyond their literary definitions.
Professor Hodges was born in the Arkansas Ozarks, known for the beauty of its mountains and deep valleys; the place later became the subject of the first chapter of his new book, Radiant Snow. The title, Professor Hodges shared, refers to his experience of watching gingko leaves falling in autumn, reflecting vibrant golden light as they swirled down like gentle flakes of snow.
Radiant Snow contains about 200 poems, with the last chapter comprised of about 100 one-line poems that he wrote rather recently. Arranged in semi-chronological, and semi-thematical order, the poems reflect on certain periods in his life that he experienced during the 30 years it took to accrue them.
Previously, he has published articles, stories, poetry, and one novella titled The Bottomless Bottle of Beer as well as various translations of Korean literature with his wife, including Yi Kwang-su’s epic novel The Soil.
“The poetry book wrote itself over these past 30 years,” he said. “Most of the poems came to me quickly under particular circumstances.”
He also introduced his experience of finding his muse and love of his life, his wife; they coincidently met on a train in Germany, an occasion he described as “unusual.”
“I find my ideas from my muse, of course,” he stated with a warm smile on his face.
The poem Crater Lake Blues in the chapter Love’s Lessons, is one of his favorite picks, with rhymes and the witty use of the word “blue” - which has three different indications: color, music, and mood.
The content of the book divides into 10 chapters, starting from reflections on the early stages of his life in Ozark Years; his diverse and international experiences of life’s mysteries are reflected in Streetwise Years; his sensitive observations on the subject of love are shown in Love’s Lessons; and Hope over Experience and his salty humor reveals in For Humors and in One-Line Poems.
Twisting literary quotes and “parodying” famous poets and poems, the professor delivers laughs through the sheer poetry of it, hoping that the readers who are comfortable with English and interested in poetry can enjoy reading his book. Much as he won UC Berkeley’s Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize in Poetry after writing for a short time in the mid-1980s, he now hopes to quickly expand his literary career to writing fiction, something he has already begun with his novella.
Radiant Snow reveals Professor Hodges’ “appreciation for nature” and his “ear for language, especially of his native Ozarks,” which “create a perfect portrait of a unique and talented man,” stated his old friend Natalie Macris in the book’s preface.
During the interview with him, Macris’s words were surely substantiated, for he explained his life and poetry in a way that was nothing less than charming.
“Thanks for reading this interview. I hope that it piques your interest in my writing,” remarked Professor Hodges.
Much as his works of 30 years are sun-burnished into Radiant Snow, Ewha Voice hopes readers can identify with professor Hodges and sometime see the “radiant snow” in their own lives.
Professor H.J. Hodges earned a BA in English and American literature at Baylor University and obtained a master’s and doctorate in history at UC Berkeley. He has taught in various places all around the globe, including Germany, Australia, and numerous cities in South Korea. Now, he has settled in Seoul, at Ewha, with his wife and their two children.