Forever: Poems (Paperback)

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In lucid, elegant poems, Forever contemplates love against the pressing question of mortality after a diagnosis of cancer.

Praised for a voice with "the crystalline, transformative, pure pitch of a lyric poet" (Ilya Kaminsky), James Longenbach explores a life lived with the knowledge of its end in his sixth collection. These luminous, lyrical poems pose a question: Why did this poet once live as if he would live forever? And what does it mean to know that we will not?

Forever explores the meaning of love, from its discovery in the first poem, "Two People," to its maintenance in the last, "Forever." In between, the volume explores the precariously imminent demise of all that we love—the finite lives of other people, the mortal beauty of Venice—all thrown into urgent relief by the poet’s own cancer diagnosis.

Evoking "the vivid dailiness of domestic life…and the specificity and poignance" of memories, "these lyrics are intimately personal, achingly autobiographical" (Langdon Hammer, American Scholar). Forthright, moving, and wry, the poems in Forever look back gratefully—excitedly—on a lifetime of self-making and self-shattering events.

About the Author

James Longenbach (1959–2022) was the author of seven volumes of poems and eight books of prose. His honors include an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim fellowship.

Praise For…

The poems in Forever wash over you like waves, lift you up and set you down back at the beginning of your life. Some of the people are familiar; the landscape is beautifully strange. You pick up your favorite book and start reading it again, but for the first time. Longenbach’s lucid poems echo across decades, bound for poetry’s future.

— Rob Schlegel

Magnificent. At once elemental—Freud might say "oceanic"—in its psychic vista, yet particular as one man’s life, loves, and losses, Forever is a wrenchingly personal account of memory, sorrow, and profound beauty, rendered in lyric poetry. It is also James Longenbach’s finest book, wrought of remarkable paradoxes—to be so precise, so spare, yet to be so inclusive, so elegant—where mortality shadows every erotic or tender gesture. That such existential breadth of vision comes at our moments of deepest crisis is—let me be clear—never a given. But it is, in Forever, Longenbach’s gift.

— David Baker

The lyric poems of James Longenbach’s Forever devastate, for they enact with such precision the very problem they pronounce: that the pleasure of the language we read can, like memory, only approach the lives we actually live. Line by line, the poems’ likelihood to narrate, repeat, or gorgeously veer describes what it is to love and simultaneously feel oneself inside the grandiosity of time.

— Sally Keith

In the pages of this tender, immediate, sharp book, you can find something our world has made nearly impossible: language freed of lies that nevertheless consoles. James Longenbach turns his cry outward, as if toward a friend in a future he won’t see, surveying childhood and marriage, surface and depth, Europe and America, with a sonic minimalism buoyed as much by the comedy in our affairs as the tragedy of their brevity. I’m certain I’ll remember the most beautiful poems in this book for my entire human life.
— Katie Peterson

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324052067
ISBN-10: 1324052066
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 25th, 2023
Pages: 80
Language: English