The Glass Hammer, the fourth book of poems by the celebrated author of After the Lost War, is a southern narrative poem. It tells the story of a boy brought up in a military family in Texas and Alabama, and it is as rich in emotion and experience as any novel, as family life itself. In a sequence of sixty-five short lyrics, the narrator moves from the anecdotal circumstances of his infancy to the rebellions of his youth and adolescence, from the tragedy of his mother's death to the acceptance of his father's disciplinary love. This sequence of poems is human, solid, passionate, rueful, and eminently readable. It is as transparent as a mountain brook and moves as fast. It is as painful and powerful and surprising as first love and first loss.
Recounting a childhood spent on military bases in the South during the '50s and '60s, Hudgins's ( The Never - Ending ) new book is not a glass hammer but a sequence of 65 little hammers--poems. He takes the tradition of the Southern narrative poem and gives it a new edge, paring down picturesque elements and allowing only the vital details to make it to the printer. Despite a highly developed technique, his voice has a rough veneer, which he cultivates, and for which he offers no apologies. This combination of craft and grit yields a poetry of aggressive charm. A novelistic quality runs through Hudgins's sequence. Though several familiar characters form the subject matter--the racist grandmother, the fundamentalist Baptist preacher, the author as a book-loving nerd--they are presented with a refreshing objectivity. It's as if Hudgins writes about them just long enough to locate both the demonic and the human, then places them on the shelf for posterity, to begin another poem. His book can and should be read as a chapter in the recent history of the South. It's a deftly composed chapter, conceived without undue glamour, filled with an adult's grateful remembrance and wary respect.