The unexpurgated Catullus is the most bawdy and profane of poets. He hurls insults with brutal candor and makes the reader feel like doing the same.
Two Poems in the Manner of Catullus
1. To a Critic
You made the mistake of praising my pain,
Flavius. This the connoisseurs of cool,
whose approval you seek and shall never gain,
could not condone. You should have known better.
They made you feel like a fool.
You joined in the laughter but it felt bitter.
And ever since you have panned
all work of my hand
with the result that I, too, despise you,
and I do not wish you well.
Yet I took no pleasure when I heard Junius tell
Calista your wife had cuckolded you
with her yoga teacher the same week
you faced a tax audit and ate a steak
with a side of fried poison, missed your train
and lost your job. I feel your pain,
Flavius. Not even a shmuck
like you deserves such lousy luck.
2. To a Rival
More beautiful than daffodils
in February or the face
that is always turned away
from the earth was Diana
a dance major at the High
School of Performing Arts
whose legs were long when
skirts were short, and what
was she doing with you
Junius, lecherous bastard who
tried to fuck every girl he met:
how could she fall for your shit?
Though I was born with a stutter,
Junius, I will denounce you yet
and win awards for my oratory
in a full session of parliament
Poems in the Manner Of
“Very few writers can actually shape how you see the world. David Lehman is such a writer,” says Robert Olen Butler. Now the Best American Poetry series editor and New School writing professor channels, translates, and imagines a collection of “poems in the manner of” Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Rilke, William Carlos Williams, and more.
Lehman has been writing “poems in the manner of” for years, in homage to the poems and people that have left an impression, experimenting with styles and voices that have lingered in his mind. Finally, he has gathered these pieces, creating a striking book of poems that channels poets from Walt Whitman to Sylvia Plath and also calls upon jazz standards, Freudian questionnaires, and astrological profiles for inspiration.
Intelligent and sparkling, this is a great gift for poetry fans and a useful resource for creative writers. These are poems of wit and humor but also deep emotion and clear intelligence, informed by Lehman’s genuine and knowledgeable love of poetry and literature. From Catullus and Lady Murasaki to Wordsworth, Neruda, Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, and Charles Bukowski, Poems in the Manner Of shows how much life there is in poets of the past. And like Edward Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem and Robert Pinsky’s Singing School, this book gives you more than poetry. Whether you’re reading for pure enjoyment or examining how a poet can use references and influences in their own work, Poems in the Manner Of is a treasure trove of literary pleasures and food for thought.
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