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« John Foy, Guest Author July 8-12 | Main | The Blind - A cappella opera for 12 voices [by Lera Auerbach] »

July 08, 2013


Great post, John!

You know, the more I read of Merrill, the more I like him. Nice article!

Very well done.

In this age of limited academic opportunities, this is a useful reminder that there are other paths for making a living (as I do).

One hopes more and more MFA and equivalent programs help to prepare students for both employment and writing life outside of academia.

Nice work. I would contest only the thought that it is entirely illogical of academics to talk about the "real world" as if they weren't living in it. Among students with serious literary ambitions, too few consider the possibility of making a living outside the graves of academe. We'll let that typo stay for the moment. Back in 1986 I did a piece for Newsweek about "poets who work for a living." You know how, when you give a book to someone, you're expected to write something besides your signature? Most of us flub it, but Bob Creeley wrote the best line when he gave me a copy of his Collected. He wrote, "To David Lehman, who works for a living." I cherish it. -- DL

This is terrific. As a poet who works in the legal/business world (and there are actually a lot of us, I find), I'm fascinated -- and only wish the lawyers I deal with were more like Wallace Stevens!

Dear David,

Thanks for your message, and thanks for this wonderful opportunity to blog for Best American Poetry.  I've had a blast this week, and I've been getting a lot of readers and a lot of good feedback.

I love "the graves of academe"! If you liked my entry on Poets & Jobs, I'm very honored.  It's a subject close to my heart, given that I've pursued poetry assiduously but worked most of my life outside the walls of the college world, while so many of my poet friends have worked inside. Sometimes, you start to develop a complex! So models like Stevens have always been very helpful to me, very reassuring. There are so many other poets with so-called "real jobs" I could have included.  Maybe I need to expand this into a bigger essay. I understand why you cherish Creeley's inscription, "To David Lehman, who works for a living"! You've done so many things in your professional writing life, and succeeded in so many ways outside of academia, that I believe you must share my views on this.

In my post today, about small animals mistakenly killed by power mowers (see Larkin and Wilbur), I wanted to include my own poem written specifically to address this macabre theme.  It's called "Killing Things."  But it's due to come out later this year in American Arts Quarterly, so I had to avoid "pre-publishing" it.  Perhaps I can send you a copy!

Here is a link to my website:

With many thanks to you and Stacey,



[email protected]

I have been working 5 years as a cartographer while writing an epic poem about philosophers the past two years.

I began publishing in the little magazines after high school as a yeoman (clerk) sailing around the world aboard a carrier, the USS Hornet. By the time I attended college I had published more and better than many of my teachers, which annoyed some of them.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


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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