Poems in Spanish is haunted by a ghostly presence throughout, whether it be of the poet's dead father or a kind of landscape of the mind, which is also, one feels, an external landscape of the senses. One reason perhaps that the poems work is the tension between the two landscapes, between the shadows in the cave and the objects they represent from the world outside. As the title of the book suggests, the poems are reminiscent of Latin American surrealism. They also remind me strongly of the so-called poets of the 'Deep Image', especially Mark Strand. Like Mark Strand, the material combines archetypal images with more homely ones, marrying the Americas of the south and north. The language of Poems in Spanish is rich and vivid, yet remaining at the same time concise and clear. The poems can be read in one sitting, but they invite and compel us to return again. Hoover is tackling time-honoured themes of poetry - longing, love, loss, regret - but there is an impish humour at work as if to remind us of the absurdity of it all, an absurdity that is to be celebrated as well as mourned. This sense of absurdity is partly communicated by the presentation of a simple, but interesting image, followed by an unexpected line which punctures the expectations Hoover has set up for us. For example, 'A beautiful woman is passing' (who is she, what does she look like, where is she going?) is followed by 'and, if you insist, a man. / Words of skin and bone.' Or 'My dead father keeps watch over me' (we imagine here a presence rather than a man in a specific place and time) is followed by 'from an upstairs window'. Although there is a dreamlike atmosphere in the poems, Hoover delights in making stories out of simple objects. In 'The Stone' he creates a narrative which tells us about the way he (and many of us) relate to ourselves, to those near to us, and to the wider world. But our attention is never taken away from the stone itself: 'I find a stone at the beach / that oddly resembles a man / cut as it was cut.' The poem holds much of Hoover's sly humour:
"I show it my own profile, / and it returns the favor. / Its expression rarely changes. // This dark and handsome stone / now sits on my mantelpiece. // It stares for days at a lottery ticket / I forgot to take to the store. // It gazes at the ceiling / and wonders about the world. // It's making plans for money, power, / and something a bit like sex."