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Yeshiva Boys: Poems Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 17, 2009
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
My personal favorite poem from the book is 4. After Auschwitz . Here as Lehman deals with shame and disconnect, a real vulnerability is conveyed. The writing is haunting and melodic in its spoken world style, the run on sentences leave the reader breathless, and the ending is as horrifying as thought provoking.
The only critique I would offer is that the allusions in the writing can sometimes feel forced, as not all readers have the same academic background of poetry. Usually, this problem can be solved by a simple google search.
Overall the book was a thought-provoking and all encompassing journey of Lehman’s life and I’m happy I ordered it !
Here comes an even greater feat, in my opinion. While the "daily" poems seemed somewhat improvisatory (although of course they were obviously carefully composed), after several readings of this volume, I feel like I'm scoping out a larger structural dynamic -- each poem is vastly different than its neighbor -- but yet somehow related.
The very first sentence of the very first poem in the book thrilled me:
"What is the purpose of your poems?"
Two things that most directly hit me:
Lehman loves mystery and seems to equally love subtle humor. You may not "get" the joke, but it's funny nonetheless! And what chill is that creeping up my spine? Sometimes it's just hard to say!