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Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man

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The contemporary poets James Cummins and David Lehman use sestinas — the strictly structured, 39-line, 12th-century poetic form — as chapters in Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man, a shaggy-dog story about romantic love, shenanigans in the writer’s trade, and volunteering to kill Osama bin Laden. Poetry fans will recognize playful nods to departed colleagues Kenneth Koch and Ted Berrigan; newcomers will just groove on how much fun writers can have juggling the formal challenge of sestina writing while making good jokes about everything from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman to the Green Lantern of comic-book fame. And any reader will simply be bowled over by the beauty of a verse like this: ”They never say that love has settled down,/that it no longer uses its sweet voice/to carry them in boats across the night./If you deny love, love will deny you;/the nighttime of its daytime voice is gone,/as you will be. It’s hard for love to end.”

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