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The Sunshine Special, Poems by Donovan Hufnagle
Influenced by poetry such as Testimony by Charles Reznikoff and Paterson by William Carlos Williams, The Sunshine Special by Donovan Hufnagle uses nonliterary documents such as journals, letters, and newspaper articles to interrupt and "negotiate" with his original verse. The poetic narrative follows a traveling eighteen-year-old in the summer of 1920 from Fort Worth to Los Angeles. Francis's exploration of new frontiers is also his exploration into his own internal struggles with family and manhood. In his journal entries, he comments on landscapes, vegetation, and relationships as well as discovers his one and only true love. As Francis explores new areas, eventually exploring Los Angeles, and falling in love, he finds himself wanting and willing to permanently move away from the family. However, interrupting the verse are letters from his sister that juxtapose his pleasure and encourage him to return home.
"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
"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
"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