David Lehman to A.R.
always the way of it. No matter where we settle – the most
glamorous city, the most stimulating region – we inevitably catch
word of folks in some other realm who sound like they’re having more
first letter in our series of epistles, New York City’s David Lehman has
kindly allowed us to feature one his letters to his friend and
MacArthur Foundation “genius” award recipient, A. R. Ammons.
David Lehman’s poetry collections include “The Evening Sun,”
“Valentine Place,” and “The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry,”
all from Scribner. His exploration of the detective genre, “The
Perfect Murder,” was nominated for an Edgar Award. He is chief
editor of the popular “Best American Poetry” series and teaches
at Bennington College, The New School and in the undergraduate
honors program at NYU.
21 April 1997
Thanks for your letter. I
love my pied-a-terre, and you will, too! You will have to visit and
see it for yourself. It seems cruel that I will have to vacate it so
soon: I must fly to Florida on May 9th to be a "master artist" at
the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach which I hear is
lovely & they're paying me & it means I can spend a weekend or two
with my Mama in Miami, so I am doing it, though it is yanking me
away from this bloody crazy city to which I am as addicted as a
junkie to his needle, and now I must find a subtenant for the summer
months. In June I spend two weeks teaching at Bennington then return
triumphantly to Ithaca on June 25 or so. Will stay until August 15th
-- providing that I can find tenants to live in Valentine Place next
My current house sitter,
Prathima, would make a very suitable tenant but she needs work and
though she is extremely efficient, when prospective clients hear her
voice on the phone, with its rich Indian accent, they terminate
discussion immediately. So much for our enlightened Ithaca
I have been reading about some
of the amazing drugs they are developing at Pfizer. That is a
definite BUY in my opinion. All this stuff about the "drug wars"
would make a terrific novel. I mean, the idea that some are illegal
while others are being pushed with the full weight of the
psycho-pharmacological establishment. If I vote this November it
will be a write in for Louis Rukeyser or you.
My address from May 9 to the
beginning of June will be c/o Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1414
Arts Center Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32168.
I was over at you know who's
(or who knows you's) for tea yesterday and told him about your hunt
for the right apartment or pied-a-terre in Manhattan. He was
incredulous, of course, but then he seemed to forget all about it as
he rested his hand on my knee and told me some wild gossip including
an interesting Wall Street joke the punchline of which is that the
God of the Old Testament is a Jew with a phone who doesn't return
calls. Also he was at a luncheon in the formerly Judenrein
Knickerbocker Club where he heard Ned Chase (Cynthia Culler's Papa)
explain to old Louis Auchincloss what "mooning" entails. He almost
demonstrated. Anyway Richard Howard is reading his poems tonight at
KGB. I am introducing. If you are around next fall you will read in
our series which is considered either hot or cool depending on your
thermometer. Either way it means TBSH [Top Bard Slept Here].
Joseph is visiting me this
Wednesday. I will take him to my Columbia class (the poor kid) but
the next night will treat him to the theater and the night after
that either jazz or Chinatown or maybe both plus a trip to a comic
If you write me a letter I
promise to read it. And reply to it. In the meantime here are some
new poems. Hope you like ‘em as much as they like you, which is
Take care of yourself and
give my love to Phyllis. As Billie Holiday would put it, do nothing
till you hear from me.