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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
(after Holderlin)

The yellow pears hang in the lake. 
Life sinks, grace reigns, sins ripen, and
in the north dies an almond tree.

A genius took me by the hand and said
come with me though the time has not yet come. 

Therefore, when the gods get lonely,
a hero will emerge from the bushes
of a summer evening
poem
I was in a French movie
and had only nine hours to live
and I knew it
not because I planned to take my life
or swallowed a lethal but slow-working
potion meant for a juror
in a mob-related murder trial,
nor did I expect to be assassinated
like a chemical engineer mistaken
for someone important in Milan
or a Jew
poem

There comes a time when the story turns into twenty
different stories and soon after that the academy of shadows
retreats to the cave of a solitary boy in a thriving

metropolis where no one remembers the original story
which is, of course, a sign of its great success: to be