The Old Current

Poems

Hardcover
$28.00 US
On sale Feb 11, 2025 | 96 Pages | 978-0-593-80280-9
MacArthur Grant–winning poet Brad Leithauser returns with his first new collection in over decade, one which recalls the delicacy and intimacy of his early, award-winning volumes, and embraces the wisdom of age.

As snappy as a dinner jacket’s red silk lining, as appealing as a piano interlude in jazz, Brad Leithauser’s robust felicity is a balm in grim times. It’s also the perfect vehicle for nostalgia, regret, and surprise, forces that animate his first collection in over a decade. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and deeply thoughtful, this collection balances wisdom and practicality, as with deft care Leithauser easily, often unexpectedly, juggles off-rhymes and old forms and new. 

   The book unfolds like a five-act play, moving from chattier poems to dramatic denouements. In the collection’s two “Darker” sections, we meet folks learning to say goodbye, from a three-year-old's cry “I love you so loud” (“A Young Farewell”) to a reckoning with words formed “Forty-Five Years On.” Time presses in continually. In “Abroad” and “At Home,” the author shows us himself, in younger form: sixty-six, then twenty-seven, catapulted back in memory to Tokyo by a single bite of food (“The Old Current”). Then, eight, and awed to remember the beauty of a lone jet overhead. With Updikean wordplay he recalls: “Porch steps, sunset; a warm, gathering gloom./Behind me, five lives: two parents plus the three/Brothers with whom I share my room” (“A Single Flight”).    

   As Leithauser takes the measure of a world expanding behind him, he manages to become weightless, freer, wild again. He also refuses to give up second changes. In the “Lighter” interlude, we chance upon “Icarus and His Kid Brother.” We’re treated to dactyls and lively quatrains, a sloppy kiss that’s not quite bliss, musings on sobriety, and what comes to pass when “life turns lickerish and liquory” (“Double Dactyls,” “Six Quatrains,” “The Muses,” and “Kisses After Novocaine”). The energies yoked within Leithauser’s formalism overflow formality. 

   Often elegiac and yet packed with humor, contemplative, consoling, and informed by the soul of a storyteller, Brad Leithauser’s latest book of poetry is a warming, enrapturing read that returns us to the ebbs and flows of life’s shores. “I’m sixty-six,” the author writes, “and could anything/Reliably be more heartening/Than stray hints that life’s brightest events./Are, however far-flung, strung/Along a long old current?”
© Michael Lionstar

BRAD LEITHAUSER is the author, most recently, of The Promise of Elsewhere, and the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship. This is his eighteenth book. He is a professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and divides his time between Baltimore and Amherst, Massachusetts.

View titles by Brad Leithauser

About

MacArthur Grant–winning poet Brad Leithauser returns with his first new collection in over decade, one which recalls the delicacy and intimacy of his early, award-winning volumes, and embraces the wisdom of age.

As snappy as a dinner jacket’s red silk lining, as appealing as a piano interlude in jazz, Brad Leithauser’s robust felicity is a balm in grim times. It’s also the perfect vehicle for nostalgia, regret, and surprise, forces that animate his first collection in over a decade. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and deeply thoughtful, this collection balances wisdom and practicality, as with deft care Leithauser easily, often unexpectedly, juggles off-rhymes and old forms and new. 

   The book unfolds like a five-act play, moving from chattier poems to dramatic denouements. In the collection’s two “Darker” sections, we meet folks learning to say goodbye, from a three-year-old's cry “I love you so loud” (“A Young Farewell”) to a reckoning with words formed “Forty-Five Years On.” Time presses in continually. In “Abroad” and “At Home,” the author shows us himself, in younger form: sixty-six, then twenty-seven, catapulted back in memory to Tokyo by a single bite of food (“The Old Current”). Then, eight, and awed to remember the beauty of a lone jet overhead. With Updikean wordplay he recalls: “Porch steps, sunset; a warm, gathering gloom./Behind me, five lives: two parents plus the three/Brothers with whom I share my room” (“A Single Flight”).    

   As Leithauser takes the measure of a world expanding behind him, he manages to become weightless, freer, wild again. He also refuses to give up second changes. In the “Lighter” interlude, we chance upon “Icarus and His Kid Brother.” We’re treated to dactyls and lively quatrains, a sloppy kiss that’s not quite bliss, musings on sobriety, and what comes to pass when “life turns lickerish and liquory” (“Double Dactyls,” “Six Quatrains,” “The Muses,” and “Kisses After Novocaine”). The energies yoked within Leithauser’s formalism overflow formality. 

   Often elegiac and yet packed with humor, contemplative, consoling, and informed by the soul of a storyteller, Brad Leithauser’s latest book of poetry is a warming, enrapturing read that returns us to the ebbs and flows of life’s shores. “I’m sixty-six,” the author writes, “and could anything/Reliably be more heartening/Than stray hints that life’s brightest events./Are, however far-flung, strung/Along a long old current?”

Author

© Michael Lionstar

BRAD LEITHAUSER is the author, most recently, of The Promise of Elsewhere, and the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship. This is his eighteenth book. He is a professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and divides his time between Baltimore and Amherst, Massachusetts.

View titles by Brad Leithauser