Larry Levis
Edited with a foreword by Philip Levine
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    A few days before his death in 1996, Larry Levis mentioned to his friend and former instructor Philip Levine that he had "an all-but-completed manuscript" of poems. Levine had years earlier recognized Levis as "the most gifted and determined young poet I have ever had the good fortune to have in one of my classes"; after Levis's death, Levine edited the poems Levis had left behind. What emerged is this haunting collection,Elegy.The poems were written in the six years following publication of his previous book,The Widening Spell of the Leaves, and continue and extend the jazz improvisations on themes that gave those poems their resonance. There are poems of sudden stops and threats from the wild: an opossum halts traffic and snaps at pedestrians in posh west Los Angeles; a migrant worker falls victim to the bites of two beautiful black widow spiders; horses starve during a Russian famine; a thief, sitting in the rigging of Columbus's ship, contemplates his work in the New World. The collection culminates in the elegies written to a world in which culture fragments; in which the beasts of burden-the horses, the migrant workers-are worked toward death; a world in which "Love's an immigrant, it shows itself in its work. / It works for almost nothing"; a world in which "you were no longer permitted to know, / Or to decide for yourself, / Whether there was an angel inside you, or whether there wasn't."Elegy, as Levine says, was "written by one of our essential poets at the very height of his powers. His early death is a staggering loss for our poetry, but what he left is a major achievement that will enrich our lives."

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9098-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    What follows is a collection of poems, a unified book I hope, carved from the work Larry Levis left behind when he died suddenly and unexpectedly in May 1996. Larry and I had spoken on the phone only a few days before he died; he planned then to bring an ʺall-but-completed manuscriptʺ with him when he returned to California in June to visit his mother in the Central Valley. That visit, of course, never took place, nor did the meeting of the two of us during which weʹd planned to look over this new book, portions of which Iʹd already...

  4. I
  5. II
  6. III
    • Elegy with the Sprawl of a Wave Inside It
      (pp. 43-46)
    • Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage
      (pp. 47-52)
    • Elegy with a Bridle in Its Hand
      (pp. 53-55)
    • Elegy for Poe with the Music of a Carnival Inside It
      (pp. 56-57)
    • Elegy with an Angel at Its Gate
      (pp. 58-65)
    • Elegy with a Chimneysweep Falling Inside It
      (pp. 66-67)
    • Elegy Ending in the Sound of a Skipping Rope
      (pp. 68-82)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 83-84)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 85-86)