Reading David Blair’s book of essays is like taking a walk with a smart, well-read friend—and before you know it, you’ve learned an enormous amount about a wide range of topics: Ella Fitzgerald, Robert Lowell, and Tomaž Šalamun, with references to Welcome Back, Kotter, and Cosmo Topper along the way. In prose that is frank and intimate, Blair brings his world to life, in a way that is at once both literary and street-wise—the description of the worst poetry reading of all time is worth the price of admission alone—always keeping the reader in the presence of flesh and blood.
In the first essay in this wonderful book, David Blair says that as you walk, “you become intensely aware in two directions”—to the outer world and into your own headspace. Also that while walking, you do what writers need to do: “you get out of your own way.” Blair’s essays are just like that. They’re so fresh because they are, as he writes of Seamus Heaney, “the opposite of self-impressed.” His own intense awareness extends in multiple directions. And as his thoughts stroll in and out of focus in these relaxed, funny, improvised pieces, we’re with him every step, “blended,” as he writes, “in kinship.”
For poet David Blair, in this engaging collection of essays, his definition of a “walk around” is affably loose-limbed. He takes us on observant rambles around a city, or through a poem, or down the Mean Streets of a movie on TV (“The movies,” he writes, “are pretty good poetry teachers”). He tips his hat with equalizing sincerity to Robert Lowell and Ella Fitzgerald, Seamus Heaney and screwball comedy. His stroll through an African American literature syllabus is one of the best pieces I know about what makes a good teacher. Blair is a great guide—undogmatic, wide-eyed—and a terrific teacher, the kind who’ll try anything to get us to open our eyes wider, and then open them wider still.
About David Blair’s Poetry
David Blair has a wild, restless imagination and he uses language like a saw, a hammer, a velvet whip. He can write incredibly tender (and original) love poems and enfilading satirical poems, as well as many of the many other “kinds” of poems between those poles.… His music, his diction, his refusal to use (ever!) cliches, his syntax all drive his poems and their hearts forward. That is where his poems go: forward. He will be in the company of the best poets of his generation.
Publisher: Madhat, Inc. (2019)