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A Poem


David Lehman (View Bio)
Paperback: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019.


"Playlist was inspired by Tape for the Turn of the Year (1965), by A. R. Ammons (1926–2001), Lehman’s mentor and friend. Like Tape, it spans fall turning into winter, one poem per day—in this case—from November 20, 2017, to January 15, 2018. It’s based on the two poets’ shared tastes in song and symphony, which, for randomness’ sake, Lehman indulges via the radio while driving (Ammons didn’t need a radio 'because [he] had / a very entertaining mind'). The songs are Great American Songbook fare performed by Sinatra, Ella, Vic Damone, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, even 'Rod Stewart trying to sing Gershwin'—played by Basie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Miles, and their peers. The symphonies (and chamber music) are by Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Franck, and other worthies. Lesser, passing subjects include the weather, the word if, holiday football, the prison near the Tivoli Gardens, Dietrich and her top hat, and Hollywood movies, especially Hitchcock’s. But the music, including snatches of lyrics and the pathos of composers (Schubert, of course), fuels the trip—and what a trip." — Library Journal

"What a gorgeous and ambitious poem this is—an elegy, a calendar, an enactment of beauty, a tribute to singers and musicians and those who love them, a musical compilation, a meditation on friendship and art, an evocation of hopefulness and the possibility of enhanced life, a summoning…." — Lee Upton

"As full of light as of music. A prodigious display of musical erudition, offered to the reader with playfulness rather than pretension." — Terence Winch

"Playlist is entirely wonderful. I'd meant just to take a quick glance and then to read it through with my afternoon tea. But once I began, I could not put it down . . . that hasn't happened to me since the passing of Schuyler. Really, it's splendid." — Donald Revell

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