In his redoubtable essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” T. S. Eliot wrote, “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.” I wonder how Eliot might have assessed the work of David Lehman, a poet whose recently published New and Selected Poems demonstrates time and again that one’s ongoing engagement with poets dead or alive need not mask personality or stifle innovation. Whether writing an intimate Haiku sequence to mentor David Shapiro (“L’Shana Tova”), echoing by turns John Donne (“Any Place I Hang My Hat”) and Philip Larkin (“This Be the Bread”), or channeling Kenneth Koch via that poet’s Art of Love phase (“Story of My Life”), the poet draws on an encyclopedic range of sources and influences without ever sacrificing his own distinct voice.
From The Brooklyn Rail. For more, click here.