From Publishers Weekly
Disarmingly casual, unexpectedly serious, alert to his predecessors and mentors in literature and in life, Best American Poetry series editor Lehman (When a Woman Loves a Man
) has produced a seventh book of uncommon variety. Some poems consider writing itself, as inspiration, as vocation, as business—That's the thing about ambitious middle-aged writers/ who used to be young: each has a secret problem,/ and if they confess it, they think it will advance/ their careers. Others seek the informality that Lehman's readers have come to expect. The Jewish content promised by the title arrives in force late in the volume, as the title poem cuts between Lehman's remembered childhood and his adult meditations on heritage and the Holocaust: I feel as if my real life is somewhere else, I left it/ back in 1938. (Lehman's mother, who speaks the prose epilogue, describes her life as a child in Vienna and as a refugee.) Lehman, who lives in New York, remains alert to many styles and forms; as a poet he has often followed in the tracks of Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara. The title poem, leaving those influences behind, will seem to some readers flat and without style, to others as personal and as profound as anything Lehman has written. (Nov.)
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"Disarmingly casual, unexpectedly serious, alert to his predecessors and mentors in literature and in life...Lehman has produced an eighth book of uncommon variety....As personal and profound as anything Lehman has written." -Publishers Weekly
"These poems comprise offerings, elegantly undercut with wit, to the gods and goddesses of language and wordplay, poetic form and poetry's rich history. But more than that, they reflect an expansive mind's enormous complexity as it recounts a lived life. The whole of a world is here, and the remnants of an era -- from Dinah Shore to Bob Dylan, from Hitler to Nixon. Under the pretense of a 'new project to ward off ennui' Lehman has written a brilliant slant-told story of coming-of-age in America in the Cold War era, a story that captures that period's disquiet and confusions, as well as its remembered pleasures. Each poem is a set piece in the history of becoming. They are intelligent, wry, and sometimes lacerating in their moments of melancholic tenderness." -- Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy