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July 30, 2009

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There's a great story behind how this sonnet came to be written. Maybe David will share it.

maybe in this case..."the whole is greater than the SUN of it's parts.." or at least some of it's suns or parts or whatever...

Let's hear it, David - spill the beans!

OK -- I'll quote from the e-mail I sent to Moira in answer to her question about the poem's publishing history. "To Summer" was written back in 1999 or 2000 when Nerve.com was a hot and heavy web site, a pioneer in the lit-clit cyber-sphere. Ross Martin, an editor at Nerve, who got me to write the parody of a personal ad in "When a Woman Loves a Man," was coordinating a contest for HBO, which was then promoting a series devoted to happy hookers. It was about how they were real people and what they did was consistent with feminist ideals of self-actualization and taking control of their lives. Contestants were shown photos of the lovelies and invited to choose one and write a sonnet to her. I chose the woman named "Summer," because of the season, and because summer and sonnets go together in my mind like summer and smoke in Hart Crane's. The line I lift from Shakespeare's sonnet 18 ("And summer's lease hath all too short a date") is among the most poignant I know. I feel it intensely now as we approach what I think of as high summer: hot and humid, good swimming weather unto it rains, and then the beauty of dark green trees in a haze, with the refreshment of white-flesh nectarine, and the crimson geraniums ready to sparkle when the sun returns. Anyway that's the secret of the sonnet. If summer is her name, you can't tell the tenor from the vehicle as they used to say before the New Criticism got old. The contest winner was going to get a dinner date with the lady. They decided I was ineligible. And, alas, the show wasn't a hit. But I had fun.

That's the best back-story on a poem I've heard in many a day. :) (But did Summer ever read her sonnet?)

And I would have rained on Summer had David gotten that dinner date . . .

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Radio

I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
                   

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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