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Keith Tuma

On Leave

On Leave


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A book of and about literary anecdotes, On Leave presents passing observations concerning the anecdote in a modular prose that tracks the events of a year on leave. Its cast of characters includes avant-garde poets, students, friends, family, and strangers encountered on travels in a year away from university work. Fragments of conversation with Bernadette Mayer, Tom Raworth, Trevor Joyce, John Wilkinson, Harryette Mullen, and many others lead onto informal commentary about poems by these authors and other observations about the reading and culture of poetry, all offered in the form of daybook notation.

Praise for this Book

‘No surprise that a book by Keith Tuma, one of nature’s most agreeable raconteurs, should flow so effortlessly. Nor that it should have such fascinating architecture. I didn’t however expect it to be quite so addictive. I’m on my fourth read through and see no sign of being able to stop. Somebody help me! A classic.’ —Randolph Healy

‘The ash which never fell from J.V. Cunningham’s cigarettes – the word ‘sward’ in John Wilkinson’s everyday usage – certain perspectives open up to alert eyes and ears. Have you forgotten that friendship may also be a pleasure of the text? Criticked into thinking those poems you read come from their makers sealed and airtight? Keith Tuma’s book of anecdotes is the remedy. What a shame his leave – and so this companionable writing – had to end.’ —Alan Halsey

Reviews of this Book

‘Poet and critic Keith Tuma spent part of a leave from teaching writing up remembered anecdotes in the context of the year's travel and rumination. Mainly dealing with encounters involving poets, the book makes itself companionable by often being very funny. Tuma is, as Randolph Healy writes, "one of nature's most agreeable raconteurs." Great beach reading for the summer. But there should be a warning on the cover: Take care, you will be stuck repeating some of these stories for the rest of your life.’ —Notre Dame Review

‘What a bad title for such a good—and, paradoxically, ambitious—book: though it presents itself as a low-pressure journal, the inconsequential deeds and recollections of a senior professor in a sabbatical year, On Leave unfolds to reveal a meditation on the anecdote as a form; an elegant sketch of grief, and of partial recovery; a calm revolt against the conventions of one-point-in-front-of-another, stiffly ineffective, argument about modern poetry; and (best of all) an amenable introduction to the sometimes prickly, too often unapproachable “avant-garde” (or, if you prefer, “post-avant”) poets in Britain, Ireland, and America, among whom Tuma has made his lit-crit career.’ —Stephen Burt

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