Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Now available from Des Hymnagistes Press:

H. R. Stoneback

172 pp.
Des Hymnagistes Press
ISBN 978-0-9822693-0-5
$20 (plus $2 S&H)

To order, please email
"Postmodern modernist extraordinaire!"
--John R. O. Gery, Director Ezra Pound Center for Literature (Davenport's Version, American Ghost/Americki Duh and numerous other books)

What I love about Stoneback's poetry is that it makes you love poetry. It is often very accomplished poetry, but Stoney's double gift for narrative and clarity encourage you to read it with the relish and abandon you would bring to finely honed prose. At the same time he knows--as Alfred Kazin said to me one afternoon, walking the miracle sands of Pensacola Beach--that all great poetry is atavistic. Stoney's atavisms--from the chthonic to the ludic, from the tellurian to the celestial--mourn for all that's missing in the vast charnel house of modern culture. He's a bard, celebratory and rhythmical, with an unmistakable voice and he gets and begets the numinous nature of poiesis.
--Allen Josephs, University of West Florida,White Wall of Spain: The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture, Ritual and Sacrifice in the Corrida: The Saga of Cesar Rincon, and numerous other books.

H.R. Stoneback's superb new collection of poems speaks to such vital fundamentals as love, hope, loss, redemption and renewal as these things are transfigured through Faith. In these eloquent and deeply personal pieces, Stoneback works with the precision of a virtuoso craftsman to devise new songs with which to speak ancient truths, fomenting a radical new rubric of vision and speech while at the same time retaining the best of oral and written tradition in the English language. Stoneback's landscapes and rivers and people are sacred. So are his words about them.
--Edward J. Renehan Jr., musician, writer (John Burroughs: An American Naturalist, The Kennedy's at War: 1937-1945, Dark Genius of Wallstreet: The Misunderstood Life of Jay Gould, King of the Robber Barons, Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and numerous other books)

H. R. Stoneback's new collection contributes another memorable chapter of story and verse to his earlier works, Cafe Millennium & Other Poems and Singing the Springs. These hymnagiste poems rollick between celebratory song and heartbreaking elegy, between the wild weirdness of the 1960s and the weirder wildness of this new century—and perhaps one of the rarest qualities in contemporary poetry, they are capable of communicating a sense of authentic joy.
In Stoneback's hands, autobiography becomes something universal; the work of mourning is shared, and sweetness is confided. Perhaps the most striking piece in a striking collection is the "found poem" Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono, which the poet wrote in Nashville, 1965 about:
how we lived in Hawai'i when we
were twenty-five how we got there what we
did there and how we came the long road home
never much money but always with song
luck and hope and hunger when we were young
After reading this poem, after reading all the poems of Amazing-Grace, we too have traveled with the poet on a long road home. And it is a marvelous ride.
--Alex Andriesse Shakespeare, Boston College

H.R. Stoneback's Amazing-Grace-Wheelchair-Jumpshot-Jesus-Love-Poems contains new (and old) poems that are about victory and precision, overcoming and redemption, love and lonesomeness, family and faith. These poems often draw from hymns, carrying the reader to the good places Stoneback has known. Above all, though, Stoneback instructs, teaching us how to live well and truly in the world.
--William Boyle, University of Mississippi

These poems have an immediacy to them, what Fitzgerald called "romantic readiness," they defy the static claustrophobia of academic poems, they are alive, they breathe with place and history, and they impart these journeys to the reader, the pilgrim. These are lasting poems, they endure, they teach, they carry the reader along traces both common and transcendent, blurring the lines of demarcation because they live the values. As Stoneback writes in "Travel Rites and Writing":
The spirit of place does not drink with tourists . . .
You have to live there,
and once you have, you do not want to write about it,
for all such writing is betrayal, unless it is poetry or fiction.
And we all know how dangerous those countries are.
--Brad McDuffie, Nyack College

Stoneback's new book of poems is a hymnagiste narrative tour de force, moving the reader into a tight complicity of darkness and light, wheeling in amazing grace toward "the still point of the turning world." In "Hear That Train: Elegy Written in a Country Music Churchyard (For Johnny Cash)" and "Victory in Jesus: Meditations on an Old Hymn" Stoneback leads us down that old road of sin, illuminating moments that bind our souls in salvation through old hymns and country songs. In his epic "Hawai'i 1965" sequence and in poems for Sparrow, the reader learns how deep love and song are often the only ways of survival in life's darkest hours. And in the final section "Walking (with Pipes & Drum)," through the exactitude of line and form, after a long uphill wheelchair ramp, Stoneback carries us into the refining fires of renewed hope and faith. Through these poems and their voices, poems and songs that read and sing like prayers, we learn how to live each day
in charity with small things, and how to find our way back after each dark night to that old redemption story.
--Matthew Nickel, University of Louisiana—Lafayette

Recent Response from Hawaii:
H. R. Stoneback is a really down to earth man. He is a down to earth man with a bohemian spirit. I told him I was from Florida. He thought I was a Polynesian because of the lei I was wearing. I got him to autograph my program book and to a photo with him. I wanted to purchase his book of poems titled “Amazing grace wheelchair jump start Jesus poems”. He was a singer in his beatnik days in Waikiki when the locals called it the jungle. He was a great speaker.
--Hugeaux, Artist/Photographer (

***And now available from Codhill Press, H. R. Stoneback's Hurricane Hymn & Other Poems (

Monday, December 22, 2008

Des Hymnagistes in New Orleans

The Maple Leaf Poetry Reading Series
(oldest poetry reading series in the South)

Presents Featured Reader

H. R. Stoneback

author of Hurricane Hymn & Other Poems,

and numerous other volumes

Opening readers
William Boyle & Matthew Nickel

Introduction of H. R. Stoneback by William Boyle and Matthew Nickel

January 18, 2009

3 - 5 pm

The Maple Leaf Bar
***8316 Oak Street***
New Orleans