An Essay

Brian Lennon

An innovative and poetic exploration of how one comes to know place


"City creates and animates its own unique zone of attention. This is the true biography of artistic sensibility, the subtly receptive medium that registers the world in carefully graded exposures, which are then arranged into the first anticipations of larger meaning."
—Sven Birkerts

"Lennon gives a pleasant voice to this emerging genre."

"Lennon's sheer playfullness with form . . . wins us over. . . . This book's roundabout poetics hits the spot."
Rain Taxi

"Lennon's always capital 'C' City is New York, and his flaneur-like speaker haunts the Upper West Side with a calm belied by the above quote, like 'the entire sky revolving on the pin of the sun, revealing now serenity, now rage.' Carefully registering everything from 'Warm body air pouring from collar' to, when on an Italian trip, 'Bernini's fish-men tooting water from ornaments,' he builds this verse essay from the ground up."
Publishers Weekly

"The most experimental of the books to have won [the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction]."
Fourth Genre

"A book of lyric phenomenology . . . A fiercely smart, quixotic book that demands slow and careful scrutiny."
Georgia Review

"What makes City so rare is that it is a carefully constructed, theoretically informed, brilliantly thought book with . . . heart."
Hyde Park Review of Books

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How do we come to know a place, and in seeking to know it do we make it foreign from ourselves? Do we tackle it from other perspectives—the excavator, the traveler, the observant witness? Can we know a place without the blur of our identity, or does the attempt to extricate ourselves from the external lead only deeper? Brian Lennon seeks such knowledge in this rare and revolutionary work that blends poetry with narrative, ethnography with autobiography, and philosophy with literature. City: An Essay begins and ends with meditations on place, the first an unusual and intriguing excavation of the underground depths and history of New York City and the conclusion a travelogue of Italy that reads like snapshots. But place comes to reside somewhere within the landscape of the imagination.

Though classified as creative nonfiction, City is an open genre piece that reads with the rhythm and beauty of poetry. Despite its sometimes philosophical core, occasionally pausing to ponder Kierkegaardian dilemmas, it maintains linguistic grace and self-reflexivity. City is a unique and unmatched experimental work by an emerging and sophisticated writer who is paving exciting new aesthetic and theoretical roads.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Page count: 112 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.25


List price: $19.95

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Brian Lennon is an assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of In Babel's Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States.