Draft of a Letter (Paperback)

By James Longenbach

University of Chicago Press, 9780226492681, 69pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2007



From "Second Draft"

What other people learn

From birth,


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.

About the Author

James Longenbach is the Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester. He is the author, most recently, of "The Resistance to Poetry" and "Fleet River," both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Praise For Draft of a Letter

"This, James Longenbach''s third collection of poetry, moves between pondering and declaration with such strange force that one can only believe the revelations within these poems."—American Poet

"Complex and moving, Draft is also quiet, elusive. It asks patience and a willingness to dwell in its unresolved tensions."
-Benjamin S. Grossberg