Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

A Swallow Press Book

Then and Now

By James Cummins

“What is remarkable is the poetry that floods through the cracks in Cummins’s poker-faced façade, drenching his mock-narrative with timeless light and joy.”

John Ashbery

“These poems… are possessed of the joy and sadness and humor that make James Cummins's work such a rare treat.”

David Lehman

“To say that Cummins’s performance is spirited, even high-spirited, is not enough; we must say that it is inspired, and thereby feeds our cravings for knowledge, for delight.”

Richard Howard

James Cummins’s first book of poems, The Whole Truth, became known throughout much of the poetry world as the “Perry Mason sestinas.” His second book, Portrait in a Spoon, was chosen by Richard Howard for the James Dickey Prize Contemporary Poetry Series.

His latest and most accomplished work is collected in Then and Now, which reflects the same inventiveness and wit evident in his earlier books, with a deepening of tone and spirit. The result is a collection of poems filled with feeling and with Cummins’s signature anguished humor.

If the language of poetry is a way into a hall of mirrors of the self, it can be a way out, too. The voice that emerges in Then and Now is sane, imaginative, bemused, and sly, not only taking responsibility for the character of the writer put fully on display, but ironically and affectionately exploring how this process occurs.

Doing Lunch

You have lunch with a friend.
You put on a false face for him,
because he is your friend.
You want to spare him your
your lies and malfeasance.

But this is just what your friend desires,
because he is your friend.
He wants your face to fall open
in front of him and twitch
like a rabbit hit on the fly.

He says he wants the latest word
from the border region between
narcissism and an inner life.
And laughs.
Shamelessly, you tell him everything,
because he is your friend.

James Cummins was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Cleveland and Indianapolis. He received his MFA from the University of Iowa and is curator of the Elliston Poetry Collection at the University of Cincinnati, where he also teaches.   More info →

Order a print copy

Paperback · $11.96 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $14.95 · Save 20% ($11.96)

Hardcover · $19.96 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $24.95 · Save 20% ($19.96)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Buy an eBook

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Cover of Then and Now

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center

Related Subjects

Click or tap on a subject heading to sign up to be notified when new related books come out.


Retail price: $14.95, S.
Release date: April 2004
96 pages
Rights:  World

Retail price: $24.95, S.
Release date: April 2004
96 pages
Rights:  World

Release date: April 2004
Rights:  World

Related Titles

Cover of 'The Nameless Sight'

The Nameless Sight
Poems 1937–1956
By Alan Swallow

Although Alan Swallow’s work on behalf of other poets has tended to overshadow his work as a poet, the reputation of his poems has been upon the ascendancy. This volume, a “selected” one, runs the gamut of Swallow’s themes. John Holmes reviewed in The New York Times, speaking of “love and compassion warming the face of the carving.”The volume was published in a beautiful limited edition by Carroll Coleman’s The Prairie Press.

Literature · Poetry · American Literature

Cover of 'Devils & Islands'

Devils & Islands
By Turner Cassity

As he approaches eighty, Turner Cassity may finally be out of control. His hatchet has never fallen more lethally, meaning if you have the stomach for him he is more enjoyable than ever. Under the blade come Martha Graham, Johann Sebastian Bach, musicologists, tree huggers, Frank Gehry, folk music, folk art of all times and all places, folk… . There are, however, his unpredictable sympathies: Edith Wilson, skyscrapers, Pontius Pilate, Pilate’s legionnaires.


Cover of 'All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing'

All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing
An Explanation of Meter and Versification
By Timothy Steele

Perfect for the general reader of poetry, students and teachers of literature, and aspiring poets, All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing is a lively and comprehensive study of versification by one of our best contemporary practitioners of traditional poetic forms.

Literary Criticism, Poetry · Creative Writing · Literature

Sign up to be notified when new Literature titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.