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Ice Men

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One cuts blocks
From the abundant river,
Hauls them house to house.
 
One falls, unseen,
The heart
Inoculated cold
 
Against a sky still moving.
Moving even now
Above the river,
The canal.
Willows shimmering
 
Across the water,
Muskrats diving out of reach.
The river whispers
Till it freezes—
 
A body
Twirling sluggishly
Beneath the surface as again
 
One stack, then
Spreads the straw.
 
Another falters,
Slips, or
Puts a sliver on your tongue
To feel it melting there—
The ice-lit
 
Underworld
Of someone else.

James Longenbach, "Ice Men" from Draft of a Letter. Copyright © 2007 by James Longenbach.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: Draft of a Letter (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)
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Ice Men

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  • A poet as well as an influential literary critic and a professor of English at the University of Rochester, James Longenbach writes primarily on modernist and contemporary poetry. He is the author of the critical works Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism (1988), Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things (1991), Modern Poetry After Modernism (1997), The Resistance to Poetry (2004), The Art of the Poetic Line (2008), and The Virtues of Poetry (2013).
    His poetry collections include Threshold (1998), Fleet River (2003), Draft of a Letter (2007), The Iron Key (2010) and Earthling (forthcoming).
    Influenced by Yeats and Stevens, he connects ordinary events with cultural and historical references such as myths, wars, Venice, and Petrarch. Reviewing The Iron Key, Dan Radar noted, “like [Elizabeth] Bishop, Longenbach embraces high lyricism. His poems are tightly conceived, elegantly architectural, and sophisticatedly enunciated.”
    Longenbach’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and several editions of The Best...

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