Monday, August 29, 2016

Poetry As Connection: Back to Levis

Eight years ago next month, from my room at Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino, California, I wrote the first post for this blog. It was entitled "Smitten." I shared a bit of why, on a two-day vacation, I was sitting in my room starting a poetry blog rather than watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. After eight years, only thirty-five people have read that first entry, but it was the beginning of a process of recording my reactions to some of the poets I admire most--poets whose work speaks to me and calls forth my best work. Evidently many resonated to those same poets, because now there are over one thousand of you who have read my blog on a regular basis. 

The intent of the blog has been to write about what I consider the highest value of poetry--connection. Not only have I written about poets I connect with, poets whose work has not only enriched my life--like Larry Levis, who inspired its title, "The Widening Spell"--but whose poems have called forth poems from me, poems I never thought I could possibly write. Finally, I have written this blog to connect with you, my readers, and to introduce you to poets you may not have otherwise encountered, so you may be a part of "the widening spell" of poetry that I fell under because of the poets in these blog posts and countless others. Evidently I have chosen poets that many people have related to, because my readership has grown to over a thousand. 

In the past few months, I have been consumed with meeting deadlines for several writing projects--many of which originated with people I've met as a result of this blog--and have not posted anything new for some time. But now it is time to pay respect again to the poet who inspired the title, "The Widening Spell"--Larry Levis. There are multiple reasons for this: Larry's final book of poems, The Darkening Trapeze, was released earlier this year; Poetry Flash has published my review of his book in its latest issue; and Michele Poulos's documentary film about his life and work, In a Late Style of Fire, will be released later this year. Thus, even though I have posted multiple times about Levis, I feel that a few more words are in order. 

Therefore, in the blog post after this one, I will amplify my review that is posted on PoetryFlash with a more thorough discussion of the competing opinions between Peter Everwine and Philip Levine concerning the poems in Elegy (but certainly applicable to those in The Darkening Trapeze, as well), as to whether Levis intentionally repeated images and phrases as "motifs or riffs to unify the collection" (Everwine's enduring position), or whether he "cannibalize[ed] certain passages from some poems in order to heighten and enlarge other more ambitious poems" (Levine's original position). 

Then in the following post after that one, I will speak to the importance of Poulos's film on the life and work of Levis, and summarize my take on the panel discussion at last year's AWP where Gregory Donovan, David St. John, Carolyn Forche, Carol Muske-Dukes, and Michele Poulos told their stories of the impact of Levis on their lives and their work.

For now, here are a couple of links:

"Cold, Cold Feeling: A Review of The Darkening Trapeze" by Terry Lucas

Trailer to A Late Style of Fire: Larry Levis American Poet by Michele Poulos

Thanks for reading. More soon...