Draft of a Letter

Draft of a Letter

Draft of a Letter

Draft of a Letter

Synopsis

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

Excerpt

One cuts blocks
From the abundant river,
Hauls them house to house.

One falls, unseen,
The heart
Inoculated cold

Against a sky still moving.
Moving even now
Above the river,
The canal.
Willows shimmering

Across the water,
Muskrats diving out of reach.
The river whispers
Till it freezes—

A body
Twirling sluggishly
Beneath the surface as again

One stacks, then
Spreads the straw.

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