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The Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror

by David Lehman

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Following in the footsteps of such poets as Emily Dickinson, William Stafford, and Frank O'Hara, David Lehman began writing a poem a day in 1996 and found the experience so rewarding that he continued for the next two years. During that time, some of these poems appeared in various journals and on Web sites, including The Poetry Daily site, which ran thirty


Following in the footsteps of such poets as Emily Dickinson, William Stafford, and Frank O'Hara, David Lehman began writing a poem a day in 1996 and found the experience so rewarding that he continued for the next two years. During that time, some of these poems appeared in various journals and on Web sites, including The Poetry Daily site, which ran thirty of Lehman's poems in as many days throughout the month of April 1998.
For The Daily Mirror, Lehman has selected the best of these "daily poems" — each tied to a specific occasion or situation — and telescoped two years into one. Spontaneous and immediate, but always finely crafted and spiced with Lehman's signature irony and wit, the poems are akin to journal entries charting the passing of time, the deaths of great men and women, the news of the day. Jazz, Sinatra, the weather, love, poetry and poets, movies, and New York City are among their recurring themes.
A departure from Lehman's previous work, this unique volume provides the intimacy of a diary, full of passion, sound, and fury, but with all the aesthetic pleasure of poetry. More a party of poems than a standard collection, The Daily Mirror presents an exciting new way to think about poetry.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Billy Collins Catullus said never a day without a line, but David Lehman has raised the stakes to a poem a day. The result is The Daily Mirror, a lively calendar of the life of a poet — daily improvisations that are entertaining, touching, and always bubbling with the fizz of contemporary life.

James Tate The Daily Mirror is a spirited, poetic romp through the days — sexy, energetic, jazzy, and just plain fun. Lehman has made this "daily poem" idea very much his own. This book is bursting with life. It's an irresistible force.

Yusef Komunyakaa The Daily Mirror reads like a sped-up meditation on the elemental stuff that we're made of: in this honed matrix of seeing, what's commonplace becomes the focus of extraordinary glimpses when these everyday images are juxtaposed into a mental geography made engaging by gazing into the daily mirror.

Carolyn Kizer I admit to being wildly envious of David Lehman's book. Imagine! A poem a day, and really good, charming, personal poems, too! Only the late William Stafford even came close to this accomplishment. Every place and person Lehman mentions is given a boost toward literary immortality.

Mark Strand I can think of no book of poems written in recent years that is nearly so entertaining as The Daily Mirror. It is the work of a quick mind unflustered by the Big Apple. Its wit is dazzling, its charm constant, its immediacy refreshing. It is, quite simply, a terrific read.

Karen Pepper
Revitalizing the tradition of the urban pastoral, The Daily Mirror picks up where Frank O'Hara left off, and the message is clear. Poetry is not happening elsewhere; it is here, in the daily panorama of our lives, "in the alley out the window" where the view of garbage is "incomparable" (from "April 9") or over lunch, where, "Except for the food this is / a great restaurant" ("February 5")....Lehman...fixes his attention (and that of his readers) on the immediate, perceivable world, without losing sight, however, of its continuity with what is dreamed, what is remembered.
Cortland Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lehman's poetic journal is a cabinet of wonders, displaying vitrine after vitrine of miraculously preserved New York School-style implacable, wacky joy. The author of The Last Avant-Garde, a critical study of the New York School zeitgeist, Lehman has clearly taken his previous subjects to heart: the incessant jazz, diners and movie stars; the abstract expressionists, yellow taxicabs and eternal Ebbets Fields reveries might make readers think this book's pub date a typo for, say, 1960. The poems are in fact eerily perfect replicas of the O'Hara and Koch originals-the poetic equivalent of Gus Van Sant's shot by shot re-creation of Hitchcock's Psycho. In Lehman's world, it is Ella Fiztgerald who has died, rather than Billie Holiday, but Larry Rivers is here intact, along with Khrushchev, Joe Dimaggio, Grace Kelly and Arthur Miller. When the technique is applied to a more contemporary cast of characters, an odd shifting of perspective occurs, almost like hearing Edward R. Murrow narrating the Gulf war, or William Shirer writing about Monica Lewinsky: "Today I decided/ Bill Clinton is/ the Tina Brown/ of politics/ the magazine is/ in the red but/ it's the talk of/ the town the biggest/ collage of celebrities/and meritocrats this/ side of the Inferno/ (trans. Robert Pinsky)." More often, though, the poems are placidly indistinguishable from their mid-century models. (Taken as a diary, their anachronistic tone and scope becomes even stranger.) Far too scientific to be nostalgic, these replicants are all wrong as homage to the restlessly innovative originals. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

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Read an Excerpt

January 1

Some people confuse inspiration with lightning

not me I know it comes from the lungs and air

you breathe it in you breathe it out it circulates

it's the breath of my being the wind across the face

of the waters yes but it's also something that comes

at my command like a turkey club sandwich

with a cup of split pea soup or like tones

from Benny Goodman's clarinet my clarinet

the language that never fails to respond

some people think you need to be pure of heart

not true it comes to the pure and impure alike

the patient and impatient the lovers the onanists

and the virgins you just need to be able to listen

and talk at the same time and you'll hear it like

the long-delayed revelation at the end of the novel

which turns out to be something simple a traumatic

moment that fascinated us more when it was only

a fragment an old song a strange noise a mistake

of hearing a phone that wouldn't stop ringing

January 2

The old war is over the new one has begun

between drivers and pedestrians on a Friday

in New York light is the variable and structure

the content according to Rodrigo Moynihan's

self-portraits at the Robert Miller Gallery where

the painter is serially pictured holding a canvas,

painting his mirror image, shirtless in summer,

with a nude, etc., it's two o'clock and I'm walking

at top speed from the huddled tourists yearning to be

a mass to Les Halles on Park and 28th for a Salade

Niçoise I've just watched The Singing Detective all

six hours of it and can't get it out of my mind,

the scarecrow that turns into Hitler, the sad-eyed

father wearing a black arm-band, the yellow umbrellas

as Bing Crosby's voice comes out of Michael Gambon's

mouth, "you've got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive,

e-lim-inate the negative" advice as sound today

as in 1945 though it also remains true that

the only thing to do with good advice is pass it on

January 3

The shrink says, "Everything depends

on how many stuffed animals you had

as a boy," and my mother tells me my

father was left-handed and so is my son

and they're both named Joe whose favorite

stuffed animal was a bear called Sweetheart

while I, the sole constant in this dream,

am carrying a little girl who has a gun

in her hand as I climb a brick wall

on the other side is unknown territory

but it has to be better than this chase

down hilly streets where the angel disguised

as a man with red hair drives the wrong way

down a one-way street so he arrives late

at the library where his son is held hostage

he breaks in lifts the boy in his arms and tells

the one kind man he had met that he and

his brother would be saved but the others

who had mocked him would surely die

Copyright © 2000 by David Lehman

Meet the Author

David Lehman, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry. His books of poetry include Poems in the Manner Of, New and Selected Poems, Yeshiva Boys, When a Woman Loves a Man, and The Daily Mirror. His most recent nonfiction book is Sinatra’s Century. He teaches at The New School and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York.

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