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The Iron Keyby James Longenbach
Synopses & Reviews
These poems are filled with the accumulated treasure of a lifetime, yet at their heart is the loss that fuels this dream of abundance: the friend to be mourned, the child to be loved, the poem to be written. Again and again, The Iron Key brings us to the door that opens onto the future.
from "April 2003"
I felt like a boy again, my navel flat as a dime—
The glamour of protest, however compromised,
Our certainty old people were wrong.
Poetry is against war or else it isn't poetry
Said my friend the poet, as if by breathing
We were glamorous.
"James Longenbach (The Art of the Poetic Line) is an incontestably brilliant critic. This fourth book of poetry shares some of the virtues of Longenbach's criticism--the poems are unfalteringly wise and knowledgeable about the poetic tradition. At their best moments, these often narrative poems borrow the haunting logic of distant memories ('I wouldn't say this to everyone, but when I wrote / In heaven, if you say the word death, nobody understands, / I was thinking about paperclips'), but there are also moments when this book reads like a short story. Still, Longenbach is an expert storyteller and never fails to alight upon dazzling and often ominous visions: 'The snow is in retrospect an image of/ Plenitude, not of desolation.' His stories also tend to be scholarly: 'Though my father painted like Sargent/ He raised me on modernism./ ... Space was color, shadow was color.' Throughout the book, Longenbach seeks words for the few fundamental truths: 'You're angry because everyone you love is dying./ You've known this since you were a child.' (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A capacious, elegant collection from a writer “with an ear as subtle and assured as any American poet now writing” (John Koethe).
About the Author
James Longenbach's work is often featured in The New Yorker and the Paris Review. He lives in New York.
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