Honest James by Christian Schlegel
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With setting moons, talking tulips, and the peacefulness found in a horse’s mane, the poems in Christian Schlegel’s debut collection Honest James might be as difficult to describe as the layered notes of an ancient perfume. “A famous notion twirled and froze. I made it mine. / Again it twirled.” This unabashedly lyrical collection, which never shies away from rhyme, includes various cameos, including Goethe in its second section, with the end result being what John Ashbery calls “one of the strangest books of poetry to come along in some time.”
“In Christian Schlegel’s Honest James you’ll find literary mannerism lightly wielded, gesture for its own sake, a bit of lace at the cuff. The title—a reference to Wordsworth’s Prelude—reflects the antiquing and old world light in these pages. Schlegel knits his syntax to invite the savor of the micro-novelistic vignettes he evokes. Period mood is produced with snippets of Latin and German, a few variations on Goethe. Were it not for his tendency to slip into four-beat rhythm and use rhyme, one could think these poems fragments of memorable lines torn from pre-twentieth-century European fiction. Time to dim the sconces and start dreaming." Jennifer Moxley
"One of the strangest books of poetry to come along in some time, Christian Schlegel’s Honest James seems to draw inspiration from the back corridors and anterooms of poetry. One senses echoes of Kipling, Browning, Landor, even Robert W. Service, and other late 19th-century hot shots, but it doesn’t seem to be a question of Schlegel taking cues from other poets, rather his magpie-like attraction to bits of history imbedded in forgotten texts. In a note he tells of using a volume of ‘plain prose translations’ from Goethe—'consulted sparingly and departed from liberally.’ Students of the archaic will find much to detain them here. It’s as though a new process of influencing has been unearthed." John Ashbery
"Of equal parts wariness and devotion, music and restraint, wit and loss, these moving poems mark Christian Schlegel as a poet with an astonishing feel for the English language, a living relationship with its literatures, and the gift of a precise wisdom." Susan Wheeler
Born and raised in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, Christian Schlegel lives in Somerville, MA, and is an English PhD student at Harvard. HIs work appears in Company, Lana Turner, and The American Reader. Honest James is his first collection of poetry.