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« | Main | Art Tatum, "Tea for Two" [by David Lehman] »

September 08, 2017


This is a wonderful find and it's delightful to hear
JA and Bruce in their youth "of bricks. Who built it?"
In parsing "These Lacustrine Cities," the first poem
in his great book "Rivers and Mountains," JA goes
immediately into his "who, me?" crouch which I find
disappointing and hardly illuminating about a poem
that evinces and perhaps coyly parodies a
kind of Cold War spy novel sinister paranoia in lines
like "we have all-inclusive plans for you" and "you will
be happy here" that recall "1984" and O'Brien's
insidious patter while torturing Winston Smith.
But no problema, or poco problema. This tape is an
inspiring artifact. Oh, do not ask,'What is it?'
Let us go and make our visit.

"Our Youth."

There is that extra layer in the poem. "You" equals I equals the lonely citizen JA, and "we" are the employers of the secret police. Given this poet's loose use of pronouns, sparked by the insight that language is tautological (it is what it is), you might entertain the proposition that the poet is to the reader as O'Brien is to Winston Smith. -- DL

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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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