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Draft of a Letter

From Second Draft:

What other people learn

From birth,

Betrayal,

I learned late.

My soul perched

On an olive branch

Combing itself,

Waving its plumes.  I said

Being mortal,

I aspire to

Mortal things.

I need you,

Said my soul,

If you’re telling the truth.

Draft of a Letter is a book about belief—not belief in the unknowable but belief in what seems bewilderingly plain. Pondering the bodies we inhabit, the words we speak, these poems discover infinitude in the most familiar places. The revelation is disorienting and, as a result, these poems talk to themselves, revise themselves, fashioning a dialogue between self and soul that opens outward to include other voices, lovers, children, angels, and ghosts. For James Longenbach, great distance makes the messages we send sweeter. To be divided from ourselves is never to be alone. “If the kingdom is in the sky,” says the body to the soul, “Birds will get there before you.” “In time,” says the awakening soul, “I liked my second / Body better / Than the first.” To live, these poems insist, is to arise every day to the strange magnificence of the people and places we thought we knew best. Draft of a Letter is an unsettled and radiant paradiso, imagined in the death-shadowed, birth-haunted middle of a long life.

Praise for Fleet River

“A sensibility this cogent, this subtle and austere is rare; even rarer is its proof that poetry still flows through all things and transforms all things in the process.”—Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times Book Review


64 pages | 6 1/8 x 8 1/2 | © 2007

Phoenix Poets

Poetry

Reviews

"This, James Longenbach’s third collection of poetry, moves between pondering and declaration with such strange force that one can only believe the revelations within these poems."

American Poet

"Complex and moving, Draft is also quiet, elusive. It asks patience and a willingness to dwell in its unresolved tensions."

Benjamin S. Grossberg | Antioch Review

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 
I
Ice Men
Death and Reason
Draft of a Letter
The Gift
Canzone
Joy and Reason
Buried Life
O Tourist
Self and Soul
The Gods in Exile
Ghost Pond
Swallowtail
 
II
Reason and Sorrow
Complaint
Second Draft
Abacus
Tenzone
Yard Work
Sparrow
Second Life
A Different Route
Self and Soul
Testament
After Petrarch

Awards

The English-Speaking Union: Ambassador Book Awards
Shortlist

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