David Lehman’s books include One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir and Playlist: A Poem. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and series editor of The Best American Poetry. He has written nonfiction books about the New York School of poets, classic American popular songs, Frank Sinatra, and mystery novels, among other subjects.
The Morning Line is David Lehman’s most ambitious book to date, combining wit, quotidian charm, and off-the-cuff spontaneity of poems written with candid and moving meditations on life, love, aging, disease, friendship, chance, and the possibility of redemption in a godless age.
Lehman is a poetic ventriloquist, and he expertly imitates Catullus and François Villon in new poems and offers his fresh translations of Mayakovsky’s “Cloud in Trousers” and Hölderlin’s “Half-Life.” The element of joie de vivre in Lehman’s work is distinctive and unusual in contemporary poetry.
Excerpt from “Fats Waller Live in 1935”
Think of that: in 1935
when everyone was supposed
to be miserable, here was Fats Waller
in his derby hat mustache cigarette and huge grin
playing and singing for the sheer joy of it.
The acclaimed annual, The Best American Poetry, is the most prestigious showcase of new poetry in the United States and Canada. Each year since the series began in 1988, David Lehman has contributed a foreword, and this has evolved into a sort of state-of-the-art address that surveys new developments and explores various matters facing poets and their readers today. This book collects all twenty-nine forewords (including the two written for the retrospective “Best of the Best” volumes for the tenth and twenty-fifth anniversaries.) Beginning with a new introduction by Lehman and a foreword by poet Denise Duhamel (guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013), the collection conveys a sense of American poetry in the making, year by year, over the course of a quarter of a century.