cover of book
 

Draft of a Letter
by James Longenbach
University of Chicago Press, 2007
eISBN: 978-0-226-49272-8 | Paper: 978-0-226-49268-1
Library of Congress Classification PS3562.O4967D73 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54

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ABOUT THIS BOOK


From Second Draft:


What other people learn


From birth,


Betrayal,


I learned late.


My soul perched


On an olive branch


Combing itself,


Waving its plumes.  I said


Being mortal,


I aspire to


Mortal things.


I need you,


Said my soul,


If you’re telling the truth.


Draft of a Letter is a book about belief—not belief in the unknowable but belief in what seems bewilderingly plain. Pondering the bodies we inhabit, the words we speak, these poems discover infinitude in the most familiar places. The revelation is disorienting and, as a result, these poems talk to themselves, revise themselves, fashioning a dialogue between self and soul that opens outward to include other voices, lovers, children, angels, and ghosts. For James Longenbach, great distance makes the messages we send sweeter. To be divided from ourselves is never to be alone. “If the kingdom is in the sky,” says the body to the soul, “Birds will get there before you.” “In time,” says the awakening soul, “I liked my second / Body better / Than the first.” To live, these poems insist, is to arise every day to the strange magnificence of the people and places we thought we knew best. Draft of a Letter is an unsettled and radiant paradiso, imagined in the death-shadowed, birth-haunted middle of a long life.


Praise for Fleet River


“A sensibility this cogent, this subtle and austere is rare; even rarer is its proof that poetry still flows through all things and transforms all things in the process.”—Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times Book Review




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