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July 20, 2011


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Excellent post -- and it brings back those heady days in 1993 when Archie and I met, in person as often as possible but, yes, on the phone too once in a while, to talk about the volume as it grew into itself. I love what you say about friendship. You are right -- the admiration (authentic, literary, impersonal) precedes the friendship, and this is true of professors' relations to students as well. (It would also offend us if we were obliged, as editors and judges, to penalize our students.) Roald is such a fine poet in addition to being a world-class chemist that it would be a damn shame to keep his poetry a secret. You raise other important questions as well. What happens when we meet someone whose work knocks us out but who turns out to be in person a sort of jerk? Thanks for this stimulating discussion-- DL

What a great post. You're quite right about the nature of literary friendships being (at the least) of two levels. I've found myself wondering how the snarky tone of some contemporary poems by young Americans might have an impact on relationships with poets of earlier generations. (And if that tone will change as this group slips past fifty.)

To flip DL's question: What happens when we meet someone whose work stiff-arms us but who turns out to be a person very much worth knowing?

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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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This Way Out

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Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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