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Lehman's latest amply demonstrates his formal and prosodic range as well as his unstinting loyalty to the tones, predispositions, prejudices and forms of the New York School of poets, particularly Ashbery, O'Hara and Koch. The autobiographical "Wittgenstein's Ladder," "In Freud's House" and "The Code of Napoleon" are distinctive, Mel Brooks–like summations of their subjects, foregrounding Lehman's strengths as a writer—his humor, compact and direct syntax and easy musicality—simply by presenting them through the prism of historical subject matter: "He's the shortest man in the room, the only one who thinks / He is Adolf Hitler. Everyone else is Napoleon." "Jew You" features a litany of slanders gut-wrenching in their pain and humor, and it ends on a nice twist: "...and when Lionel Trilling asked Allen Ginsberg why he, a fellow Jew, / had written 'fuck the Jews' in his dorm room window, / Ginsberg sighed: 'It's very complicated.' Now there was a Jew." Lehman cannot "take wing" the way his hero-poets did in the '50s not only because he lacks the spirit of the enigma – the Surrealist aspect of New York School hijinks eludes him – but simply because he doesn't seem to like his time very much. (Apr.)
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"Very few writers can actually shape how you see the world. David Lehman is such a writer. His poetry rides the currents of the zeitgeist in ways that are deeply influential. And if you let him alter you, he confers something like peace upon you, for in Lehman the darkest moments are always a beat away from laughter and the lightest things are always going dark around the edges. What strange and profound comfort that is. When a Woman Loves a Man is a truly important collection."
-- Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"In David Lehman's poem 'A History of Modern Poetry,' he writes, 'the idea was to have a voice of your own, / distinctive, sounding like nobody else's / The result was that everybody sounded alike.' This may well be true, but Lehman's 'everybody' voice still sounds uniquely his: wisecracking but resonant with the pleasures of poetry."
-- John Ashbery