Always a poet of memory and invention, Philip Levine looks back at his own life as well as the adventures of his ancestors, his relatives, and his friends, and at their rites of passage into an America of victories and betrayals. He transports us back to the street where he was born "early in the final industrial century" to help us envision an ...
Always a poet of memory and invention, Philip Levine looks back at his own life as well as the adventures of his ancestors, his relatives, and his friends, and at their rites of passage into an America of victories and betrayals. He transports us back to the street where he was born "early in the final industrial century" to help us envision an America he's known from the 1930s to the present. His subjects include his brothers, a great-uncle who gave up on America and returned to czarist Russia, a father who survived unspeakable losses, the artists and musicians who inspired him, and fellow workers at the factory who shared the best and worst of his coming of age. Throughout the collection Levine rejoices in song-Dinah Washington wailing from a jukebox in midtown Manhattan; Della Daubien hymning on the crosstown streetcar; Max Roach and Clifford Brown at a forgotten Detroit jazz palace; the prayers offered to God by an immigrant uncle dreaming of the Judean hills; the hoarse notes of a factory worker who, completing another late shift, serenades the sleeping streets. Like all of Levine's poems, these are a testament to the durability of love, the strength of the human spirit, the persistence of life in the presence of the coming dark.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-09-20 Though Levine's late-'60s poems (in They Feed They Lion) surprised everyone, by now his readers know what to expect. Levine writes gritty, fiercely unpretentious free verse about American manliness, physical labor, simple pleasures and profound grief, often set in working-class Detroit (where Levine grew up) or in central California (where he now resides), sometimes tinged with reference to his Jewish heritage or to the Spanish poets of rapt simplicity (Machado, Lorca) who remain his most visible influence. Levine's 18th book will neither disappoint his devotees nor silence the doubters. The simple lyric pleasures are still here, however colored with mortality: "I came to walk/ on the earth, still cold, still silent." Many poems memorialize, by name, men now dead whom Levine admired when young: Uncle Nate, Uncle Simon, "great-uncle Yenkl"; "Antonio, the baker"; Bernie whose "mother/ worked nights at Ford Rouge"; Joachim, who once fought for the Spanish Republic; young John, "coming home from the job at Chevy," "even at sixteen... a man waiting to enter/ a man's world, the one that would kill him." "Until he dies, a boy remains a boy," the sequence "Naming" states; often Levine contrasts his boyhood memories with his experience of old age, to serious effect. His poems of grief also form, as Levine says, "a silent chorus/ for all those we've left/ behind." (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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