Poems in the Manner Of...

David Lehman. Scribner, $18 (160p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3739-6
Though the conceit might seem cute, Lehman (Sinatra’s Century), series editor of the Best American Poetry series, brings his expert eye and deep knowledge of the writers he mimics to save this collection from feeling like a mere workshop exercise. As Lehman writes in his introduction, the work embraces “homage, parody, imitation, and appropriation, or combinations of these four things.” Spanning Catullus to Joe Brainard, and employing the art of ekphrasis as much as imitation, Lehman succeeds in the task he sets for himself. These renderings are a record of poetic engagement, a sort of autobiography of what has moved the author as well as a moving summary of the author’s own development. It is hard to use the term speaker here, as Lehman so readily inserts himself at the outset of every piece, offering a small anecdote as to why he has chosen this particular poet or manner to imitate. He offers disparate justifications for his choices, recalling his father, a refugee from Nazi Germany, reciting Goethe to him, and declaring that “I like emulating Frank O’Hara.” Therein lies the charm of this book: Lehman’s blend of whimsy and gravitas, his ability to find pleasure in almost anything while still plumbing its depths. Agent: Glen Hartley, Writers’ Representatives. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2017
Release date: 03/07/2017
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