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About this Poem 

“‘Poem in the Modernist Manner’ is from a book of poems in progress called Poems in the Manner Of. I began writing the book twelve years ago—on the principle that when I write as if I were someone else, something good may happen. I have written poems in the manner of Cavafy, Neruda, Baudelaire, Holderlin, Rilke, Auden, Mayakovsky, Dorothy Parker, Emerson, Dickinson, Yeats, Frost, Borges, Bukowski, W. C. Williams, Robert Lowell, and ‘Wallace Stevens as rewritten by Gertrude Stein,’ among others. Poem in the Modernist Manner sneaks in allusions to Auden and Eliot, and the atmosphere and attitude owe something, I think, to the modernists of the Pound generation.”
—David Lehman

Poem in the Modernist Manner

They were cheap but they were real,
the old bistros. You could have a meal,
drink the devil’s own red wine, and contemplate
the sawdust on the floor, or fate,
as the full-fed beast kicked the empty pail.

The conspiracy of the second rate
continued to reverberate.
Everyone wanted to get his licks.
Everyone said it was a steal.

So the girl and I stayed out late.
We walked along the shore
and I campaigned some more.
And the city built with words not bricks
burned like a paper plate.

Copyright @ 2014 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright @ 2014 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author.

David Lehman

David Lehman

David Lehman is the author of several collections of poems and books of criticism and is also known as a prominent editor, teacher, and literary critic.

by this poet

poem
Some people find out they are Jews.
They can't believe it.
They had always hated Jews.
As children they had roamed in gangs on winter nights in the old
    neighborhood, looking for Jews.
They were not Jewish, they were Irish.
They brandished broken bottles, tough guys with blood on their
    lips, looking for
poem
The happiest moment in a woman's life
Is when she hears the turn of her lover's key
In the lock, and pretends to be asleep
When he enters the room, trying to be
Quiet but clumsy, bumping into things,
And she can smell the liquor on his breath
But forgives him because she has him back
And doesn't have to sleep
poem
He wrote the whole novel in his head,

Sentence by sentence. It took him all day.

Then he took out a wide-ruled yellow legal pad

With three pink vertical lines marking the left margin,

And from his breast pocket he extracted

A disposable plastic fountain pen,

And near the top of the page he wrote the word