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Poet Tony Hoagland Explores Species’ ‘Romantic Moments’

February 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In honor of Valentine's Day, poet Tony Hoagland reads "Romantic Moment" -- a poem about a man and woman who have just watched a nature documentary on a date, and how their expressions of affection stack up against those of leopard frogs, chimpanzees, bull penguins and so on.
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TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, looking for love in unusual places.

We get that take from poet Tony Hoagland. He teaches writing at the University of Houston, and he is the author of six books of poetry.

TONY HOAGLAND, University of Houston: For Valentine’s Day, I’m going to read a poem called “Romantic Moment,” which is about a man and a woman who have been to see a nature documentary on a date, a first date.

And it’s one of the documentaries in which many animal species are characterized in terms of their mating habits.

“Romantic Moment.”

“After seeing the nature documentary, we walk down Canyon Road, onto the plaza of art galleries and high-end clothing stores, where the orange trees are fragrant in the summer night and the smooth pink walls glow fleshlike in the dark.

“It is just our second date, and we sit down on a bench, not looking at each other, holding hands. And if I were a bull penguin right now, I would lean over and vomit softly into the mouth of my beloved. And if I were a peacock, I’d flex my gluteal muscles to erect and spread the quills of my Cinemax tail.

“And if she were a female walking-stick bug, she might insert her hypodermic proboscis delicately into my neck and inject me with a rich hormonal sedative before attaching her egg sac to my thoracic undercarriage. And if I were a young chimpanzee I would break off a nearby tree limb and smash all the windows in the plaza jewelry stores.

“And if she was a Brazilian leopard frog, she would wrap her impressive tongue three times around my right thigh and pummel me lightly against the surface of our pond, and I would know her feelings were sincere.

“Instead, we sit awhile in silence, until she remarks that, in the relative context of tortoises and iguanas, human males seem to be actually rather expressive. And I say that female crocodiles really don’t receive enough credit for their gentleness. Then she suggests that it is time for us to go to get some ice cream cones and eat them.”

GWEN IFILL: And that was poet Tony Hoagland reading “Romantic Moment.”