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About this poet

David Lehman was born in New York City in 1948. He graduated from Columbia University and attended Cambridge University in England as a Kellett Fellow. He received a PhD in English from Columbia University.

He is the author of several collections of poems, including New and Selected Poems (Scribner, 2013); Yeshiva Boys (Scribner, 2009), When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005); Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man, coauthored with James Cummin (Soft Skull Press, 2005); The Evening Sun: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner, 2002); The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner, 2000); Valentine Place (Scribner, 1996); Operation Memory (Princeton University Press, 1990); and An Alternative to Speech (Princeton University Press, 1986).

His books of criticism include A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Schocken, 2009); The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (Doubleday, 1998), which was named a "Book to Remember 1999" by the New York Public Library; The Big Question (University of Michigan Press, 1995); The Line Forms Here (University of Michigan Press, 1992); and Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man (Poseidon Press, 1991). His study of detective novels, The Perfect Murder (University of Michigan Press, 1989), was nominated for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Lehman is also known as a prominent editor and literary critic. He is currently the series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988, and is general editor of the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry Series. His other editorial works include The Best American Erotic Poems (Scribner, 2008) and The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006).

According to the poet John Hollander, "This increasingly impressive poet keeps reminding us that putting aside childish things can be done only wisely and well by keeping in touch with them, and that American life is best understood and celebrated by those who are, with Whitman, both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it."

Lehman's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award.

He is on the core faculty of the graduate writing programs at the New School and New York University. He lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

New and Selected Works (Scribner, 2013)
Yeshiva Boys (Scribner, 2009)
When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005)
Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man, coauthored with James Cummin (Soft Skull Press, 2005)
The Evening Sun: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner, 2002)
The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner, 2000)
Valentine Place (Scribner, 1996)
Operation Memory (Princeton University Press, 1990)
An Alternative to Speech (Princeton University Press, 1986)

Prose

A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Schocken, 2009)
The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (Doubleday, 1998)
The Big Question (University of Michigan Press, 1995)
The Line Forms Here (University of Michigan Press, 1992)
Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man (Poseidon Press, 1991)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

When a Woman Loves a Man

David Lehman, 1948
When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in
     Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
     is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"
"that's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
     another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
     airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
     she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

From Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Copyright © 1996 by David Lehman. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

From Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Copyright © 1996 by David Lehman. All rights reserved. Reprinted by 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
Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
   intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind
   numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence,
   breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics
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
There comes a time in every man's life 
when he thinks: I have never had a single 
original thought in my life 
including this one & therefore I shall 
eliminate all ideas from my poems 
which shall consist of cats, rice, rain 
baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants 
red brick houses where I shall give