How Long

Overview

Ron Padgett's title poem asks: "How long do you want to go on being the person you think you are? / How Long, a city in China." With the arrival of his first grandchild, Padgett becomes even more inspired to confront the eternal mysteries in poems with a wry, rueful honesty that comes only with experience, in his case sixty-eight years of it.

I never thought,
forty years ago,...

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Overview

Ron Padgett's title poem asks: "How long do you want to go on being the person you think you are? / How Long, a city in China." With the arrival of his first grandchild, Padgett becomes even more inspired to confront the eternal mysteries in poems with a wry, rueful honesty that comes only with experience, in his case sixty-eight years of it.

I never thought,
forty years ago,
taping my poems into a notebook,
that one day the tape would turn yellow, grow brittle, and fall off and that I'd find myself on hands and knees groaning as I picked the pieces up off the floor one by one

Ron Padgett is a celebrated translator, memoirist, and "a thoroughly American poet, coming sideways out of Whitman, Williams, and New York Pop with a Tulsa twist" (Peter Gizzi). His poetry has been translated into more than a dozen languages and has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, The Oxford Book of American Poetry, and on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac. He was also a guest on Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion in 2009. Padgett is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and his most recent books include How to Be Perfect; You Never Know, Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard; and If I Were You. Born in Oklahoma, he lives in New York City and Calais, Vermont.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What sets Padgett apart from other accessible, humorous poets is his willingness to become both difficult and serious when a poem requires it. And while it is a commonplace that a poet's late books will focus on mortality, Padgett approaches the subject as a New York School poet who has had to live through the deaths of his friends. "I wish you/ were looking out your window on St. Mark's Place," he writes in "Snowman," "so I could call you/ ... and hear you laugh/ ... and say Ronnie!// I just heard you say it through your ashes." Padgett's complexity lies in his ability to depart from a thought as soon as he introduces it (the poem "Death," for instance, begins, "Let's change the subject"), a strategy of which he is never unconscious: "What was I thinking about/ a few minutes ago when/ another thought/ swept me away?" It is these instances, in which Padgett uses his poems to help piece together his recollections, that give this collection its vulnerability and sincerity. "Could life have been that simple?" Padgett asks, to which he responds with the terrible and soothing fact death brings us: "you don't even have to answer the question." (Apr.)
Troy Jollimore
…Padgett's poems are so playful, self-mocking and eager to please that it would be easy to overlook their craft, not to mention the depth and sincerity of the emotions they convey. What animates How Long is the tension between the buoyancy of its language and the gravity of its subject, death, to which the poems obsessively return.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566892568
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 791,212
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Padgett is a celebrated translator, memoirist, and, “a thoroughly American poet, coming sideways out of Whitman, Williams, and New York Pop with a Tulsa twist" (Peter Gizzi). His poetry has been translated into more than a dozen languages and has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Poetry 180, The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, The Oxford Book of American Poetry, and on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He was also a guest on Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion in 2009. Padgett is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and his most recent books include How to Be Perfect, You Never Know, Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, and If I Were You. Born in Oklahoma, he lives in New York City and Calais, Vermont.

Read More Show Less

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