Letters to a Stranger: Poems (Re/View)

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9781555975029: Letters to a Stranger: Poems (Re/View)

The searing collection, a cult favorite for decades, by the late Thomas James

I will last forever. I am not impatient―
My skin will wait to greet its old complexions.
I'll lie here till the world swims back again.
―from "Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh"

Thomas James's Letters to a Stranger―originally published in 1973, shortly before James's suicide―has become one of the underground classics of contemporary poetry. In this new edition, with an introduction by Lucie Brock-Broido and four of James's poems never before published in book form, this fraught and moving masterpiece is at last available.


Letters to a Stranger is a new book in the Graywolf Poetry Re/View Series, edited by Mark Doty, dedicated to bringing essential books of contemporary American poetry back into print.

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About the Author:

Thomas James (1946–74) was from Joliet, Illinois. Letters to a Stranger, which won the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest in 1969, was his only book of poetry.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. James took his own life in January 1974. He was 27, gay and the author of one poetry book published in 1973 by Houghton Mifflin; it received little attention. However, since then, in American poetry's back rooms, a kind of cult has grown around it—passed from poet to poet in photocopy, Letters to a Stranger has become an underground classic, largely due to an obsessive campaign by the poet Lucie Brock-Broido, who has written a shimmering epistolary introduction for this edition, which includes 13 uncollected poems, and is the second volume in Graywolf's Re/ View reissue series. James was enthralled by Plath's Ariel, suicide and the transformative capacities of his own verbal music. Mostly dramatic monologues, his poems speak directly to their stranger, haunted (I am heir to the old decisions) and hauntingly true: It is easy to surrender to the point of a needle:/ It is like lying down to love.... Self-dramatizing, brilliantly imaginative, wildly sad, they long, with romantic futility, to be heard, reveling and wallowing in the wide spaces of their privacy: I will last forever. I am not impatient, says James, in the voice of a mummified Egyptian noble, as if aware his book would last: I'll lie here till the world swims back again. (July)
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