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Yeshiva Boys: Poems
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Yeshiva Boys: Poems

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by David Lehman, Erich Hobbing (Developed By)
 

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David Lehman, a poet of wit, ingenuity, and formidable skill, draws upon his heritage as a grandson of Holocaust victims and offers a stirring autobiographical collection of poems that is his most ambitious work to date. It covers an expansive range of subjects — from love, sex, and romance to repentance, humility, the meaning of democracy,

Overview

David Lehman, a poet of wit, ingenuity, and formidable skill, draws upon his heritage as a grandson of Holocaust victims and offers a stirring autobiographical collection of poems that is his most ambitious work to date. It covers an expansive range of subjects — from love, sex, and romance to repentance, humility, the meaning of democracy, Existentialism, modern European history, military intelligence, and the rituals associated with faith and prayer. The title poem, "Yeshiva Boys," is a work in twelve parts that blends the elements of espionage fiction, memory, history, and moral philosophy. It reflects David's experience as a student in an orthodox Yeshiva, and it, along with many other poems in the book, explores what it means to be a Jew in America, what is gained and lost in assimilating to secular culture, how to understand the peculiar destiny of the Jewish people, and how to reconcile the existence of God with the knowledge of evil. Beautiful, provocative, and accessible, this is David Lehman's most inspired collection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Disarmingly casual, unexpectedly serious, alert to his predecessors and mentors in literature and in life, Best American Poetry series editor Lehman (When a Woman Loves a Man) has produced a seventh book of uncommon variety. Some poems consider writing itself, as inspiration, as vocation, as business—“That's the thing about ambitious middle-aged writers/ who used to be young: each has a secret problem,/ and if they confess it, they think it will advance/ their careers.” Others seek the informality that Lehman's readers have come to expect. The Jewish content promised by the title arrives in force late in the volume, as the title poem cuts between Lehman's remembered childhood and his adult meditations on heritage and the Holocaust: “I feel as if my real life is somewhere else, I left it/ back in 1938.” (Lehman's mother, who speaks the prose epilogue, describes her life as a child in Vienna and as a refugee.) Lehman, who lives in New York, remains alert to many styles and forms; as a poet he has often followed in the tracks of Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara. The title poem, leaving those influences behind, will seem to some readers flat and without style, to others as personal and as profound as anything Lehman has written. (Nov.)
Library Journal
What does it mean to be a member of God's chosen race if God is dead? This newest work by Lehman (series editor, Best American Poetry) looks at that question from several perspectives: up close and far away, as well as philosophically, historically, sociologically, playfully, and seriously. Mostly conversational, these poems assume several voices, one for each section of the book. There is a youth, an old man (one of the boys from the title poem), and an old woman, with the two old people probably Lehman's parents. Each voice has its own take on Jewishness, the Holocaust, and a God who may or may not be present. VERDICT A thorough knowledge of literature and literary techniques informs Lehman's eighth book of verse. Nevertheless, with puns, paradox, alliteration, and other figures of sound as well as a poetic style that relies heavily on allusions, these poems—with the exception of a few gems—seem like literary exercises as opposed to experiences. Recommended for academics.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
From the Publisher
"Disarmingly casual, unexpectedly serious, alert to his predecessors and mentors in literature and in life...Lehman has produced an eighth book of uncommon variety.... As personal and profound as anything Lehman has written." -Publishers Weekly

"These poems comprise offerings, elegantly undercut with wit, to the gods and goddesses of language and wordplay, poetic form and poetry's rich history. But more than that, they reflect an expansive mind's enormous complexity as it recounts a lived life. The whole of a world is here, and the remnants of an era — from Dinah Shore to Bob Dylan, from Hitler to Nixon. Under the pretense of a 'new project to ward off ennui' Lehman has written a brilliant slant-told story of coming-of-age in America in the Cold War era, a story that captures that period's disquiet and confusions, as well as its remembered pleasures. Each poem is a set piece in the history of becoming. They are intelligent, wry, and sometimes lacerating in their moments of melancholic tenderness." — Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439136171
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
11/17/2009
Pages:
95
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

On Purpose

"What is the purpose of your poems?"
I'm glad you asked me that as I stand here in Mr. Ferry's eleventh-grade English class in Lake Forest High School I have given a lot of thought to "purpose"
Walking with a purposeful air in New York City has obvious benefits in the chill of the night with wind and it's even better when it's no bluff you do know where you're going from day to day and you know when it's over so it's like a story with a beginning middle and end yet you could not tell me the purpose of high school humiliation and I could not tell you the purpose of this dream where you get up from these desks and go to college and become lawyers or failures or soccer moms and when you wake up you will have no recollection of this encounter in the dark but it will linger nevertheless and bring refreshment to your soul

Copyright © 2009 by David Lehman

Homily

Man has the will to grieve a week and no longer.

Ever the stranger he will kill with righteous anger.

What does he believe?
In his right to trade a season of greed

for an hour of love in an unlit corner.
Such is love's power,

though it last no longer.
And such is his need than which nothing is stronger.

Copyright © 2009 by David Lehman

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Disarmingly casual, unexpectedly serious, alert to his predecessors and mentors in literature and in life...Lehman has produced an eighth book of uncommon variety.... As personal and profound as anything Lehman has written." -Publishers Weekly

"These poems comprise offerings, elegantly undercut with wit, to the gods and goddesses of language and wordplay, poetic form and poetry's rich history. But more than that, they reflect an expansive mind's enormous complexity as it recounts a lived life. The whole of a world is here, and the remnants of an era — from Dinah Shore to Bob Dylan, from Hitler to Nixon. Under the pretense of a 'new project to ward off ennui' Lehman has written a brilliant slant-told story of coming-of-age in America in the Cold War era, a story that captures that period's disquiet and confusions, as well as its remembered pleasures. Each poem is a set piece in the history of becoming. They are intelligent, wry, and sometimes lacerating in their moments of melancholic tenderness." — Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy

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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Yeshiva Boys: Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago