The American Eye by Eric Hoffman


Included in this volume are two poems: the first, Emerson in Europe, a verse translation of the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, just prior to his Harvard speech, lamenting the death of his wife and having given up the cloth, tours Europe, meeting with Wordsworth, Coleridge and Carlyle. A second poem, The Vast Practical Engine, a lyric collage of the philosophy of pragmatism, utilizes the cadences of Emerson’s godson William James. Together, these poems comprise a concise meditation on the immense transformation in human thought contributed by these two radical thinkers.


  • Pages: 81
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-1-933675-65-7


In Eric Hoffman’s new poems, quarried in part from Emerson’s Journal, the American eyeball is no longer “transparent” but constantly active and exploratory, the seer “insisting / Upon his right to see & judge.” Emerson’s reflections here acquire subtly new and distinctive rhythms that register the appetencies of vision even as they seek to measure “the weight of history.” The American eye, “Like a chemist assembling substances,” is searching, urgent, attracted to the accuracies of science, yet as the last sequence of poems also warns (Louis Agassiz is the exemplary figure here), that piercing gaze may also viciously affirm a world of social and racial hierarchies—in face of which our only hope, as Hoffman’s Emerson memorably avers, is to “search for what is similar / In ourselves.” —Peter Nicholls


My eye is American.
Like a chemist assembling substances
I bring myself to sea
In search of affinities –

The bubble –
By its birthright – expands –
& my American eye
Is like a child’s again


Eric HoffmanEric Hoffman is the author of five previous books of poetry. He lives and works in Connecticut.  His web site can be found at:

Other Books by Eric Hoffman
Everything Is Actual (2011)
Life At Braintree (2008)
Of Love and Water (2008)
Threnody (2006)
Things Like This Happen All the Time (2000)

Additional information

Weight 8 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in