THE EVENING SUN: A Journal in Poetry
The serial method of this poem-a-day "journal," a sequel to 2000's The Daily Mirror, allows Lehman to try on several suits in the course of 100-plus pages—on April 22, he is a nihilistic sharpshooter as he mock denies the events of the Holocaust in a sort of list-curse ("nor were the windows of synagogues and Jewish shopkeepers/ smashed in November 1938"), while two days later he is ruminating, like a Dada Seinfeld, on the fact that many people mean "fuck you" when they say "thank you," but never the converse: "All roads lead to the Rome of 'fuck you'/ get it?" These page-or-less poems, while they can be formally quite refined, often come off as skilled but unambitious pastiches of the styles of the New York School poets Lehman has written about in The Last Avant-Garde and elsewhere: Ashbery, Koch, O'Hara, and the like. The ingredients, somewhat updated, are often there—Nicole Kidman and Ben Affleck, autumn leaves and French rap music, as well as several unnamed lovers—but Lehman's speaker affects a courtly, sometimes brash humor that most often reads like a disguise for a clinical indifference: "They now call/ downtown New York/ ...the 'canyon of heroes'/ a great phrase/ that I shall use/ for the canal zone between/ your lovely lithe legs," ends one failed (pre9/11) attempt at Herrick-like eros. Lehman's compulsive chronicle is at its best when his joke-machine is unfettered by self-reflection and he's got a few historical references to throw around ("George Steinbrenner/ is as frightened of the Mets/ as Nixon was of the brothers Kennedy"), giving readers a carefully tempered New York tinged with the tone of earlier greats. (Apr.)
Forecast:Lehman edits the Best American Poetry (Scribner) and Poets on Poetry (Michigan) series, curates a reading series at New York's KGB Bar which resulted in the KGB Reader (Morrow) and is on the core faculty of the writing programs at New York's New School and Vermont's Bennington College. His frequent reviewing and nonfiction work give him a high profile outside of poetry; expect solid sales in and out of the academy, and possible post–September 11 New York interest, though these poems were written in 2000.
Release date: 04/01/2002