blackbirdonline journalSpring 2011  Vol. 10  No. 1

Reading Loop Introduction and Table of Contents


Larry Levis
   Elegy Ending in the Sound of a Skipping Rope

Two Poems: A Reading by Larry Levis 

David Freed
   Larry Levis
   Portrait of L.L.
   Studio Snapshot

David St. John
   From Elegy to Trapeze

Roger Reeves
   poems from King Me
   Cross Country
   In a Brief, Animated World: The Marriage of Anne
      of Denmark to James of Scotland, 1589
   Self-Portrait as Ernestine “Tiny” Davis
   Romanticism (the Blue Keats)

17th Annual Levis Reading Prize 
   with Gregory Donovan, Kathleen Graber, and
      Roger Reeves

Christian Detisch
   Review | King Me, by Roger Reeves

BirdLab Feature
   Familiar Scars vs. Original Intent:
   A Photo Restoration Case


Welcome to Blackbird’s thirteenth Levis Remembered, a visit with the poetry of Larry Levis and an introduction to the seventeenth annual Levis Reading Prize winner, Roger Reeves. The prize is given by the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University to the author of a first or second book of poems chosen by VCU’s panel of judges. Join us in discovering Roger Reeves’s very fine poems and in remembering Larry Levis’s matchless witness to the last decades of the twentieth century.

Each fall Blackbird calls attention to some aspect of Levis’s work, and this year we particularly invite you to revisit “Elegy Ending in the Sound of a Skipping Rope.” Philip Levine, with the help of David St. John and Peter Everwine, selected this poem to close Elegy, the posthumous collection of poetry that appeared in 1997, the year following Levis’s death. We choose to revisit the poem at this time because we believe that it is particularly emblematic of how Levis worked in his later poems. It also encompasses many of the thematic preoccupations that concern those poems and, therefore, can serve as one of the avenues through which one might enter The Darkening Trapeze: The Last Poems (edited and with an Afterword by David St. John), which is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2016.

As Gregory Donovan notes in his essay on this poem, presented as a part of the Levis Prize Reading:

In a poem such as this one, which combines the political and the personal in an intimate way that we see few poets these days having the courage to undertake, Levis has to engage with a longer poem so that there is the space and scope for the movement back and forth between inner and outer landscapes, between historical and personal detailing, between the global and the particular embodiments that will make such connections not only possible but significant and intense, for himself and for his readers.

Levis’s technique of using interwoven narratives, themes, images, and recurring language serves those connections well and is one of the unifying threads between the poems that we know from Elegy and the poems that will greet us in The Darkening Trapeze. As David St. John states:

These two books will now stand as mirrors to each other, showing us with tremendous clarity the profoundly inventive genius—let me say it again, genius—of Larry Levis’s alchemical, complexly braided, and often devastating, late poetry.

Included in Levis Remembered are St. John’s notes on looking forward to the new book; two images and a snapshot of Levis by artist David Freed; a previously published, reformatted video of Levis reading; a selection from King Me, Roger Reeves’s prize-winning book; and audio and transcripts from the 17th Annual Levis Reading Prize event, which includes the reading by Reeves, a brief Q&A, an introduction by Kathleen Graber, and the essay by Donovan.

We invite you to enter Levis’s work, both in Blackbird and in his books, and we thank his sister, Sheila Brady, and his son, Nick Levis, for the opportunity to recognize him here. The Levis Prize is sponsored by the VCU Department of English, VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, VCU Honors College, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, and the family of Larry Levis.  end

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