blackbirdonline journalFall 2015  Vol. 16 No. 2

Reading Loop Introduction and Table of Contents


Jenny Xie
   poems from Eye Level, winner of the
        2019 Levis Reading Prize

   Phnom Penh Diptych: Dry Season

A Conversation with Jenny Xie 

Emilia Phillips
   Review | Eye Level, by Jenny Xie

Gregory Donovan
   Caught: The Fish in Bishop, Dubie,
        and Larry Levis

Larry Levis

Christopher Buckley
   My Teachers

Larry Lorca
   Another Life in Public


Blackbird’s annual Levis Remembered reading loop features work connected to Larry Levis as well as an introduction to the twenty-second Levis Reading Prize winner, Jenny Xie. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of English and its MFA program in creative writing award the prize annually to the author of a first or second book of poems. The winning poet reads at a celebratory event at which the prize is awarded and at which Levis is remembered.

Each fall Blackbird calls attention to some aspect of Levis’s work, and this year we have brought into focus the poem “Fish,” a piece that recalls a brusque and jolting encounter with authority and that hints at many of the autobiographical and narrative preoccupations that take center stage in Levis’s later work.

In examining these concerns, Gregory Donovan’s essay, “Caught: The Fish in Bishop, Dubie, and Larry Levis,” addresses this particular image as it dominates three poems from each of these poets. Donovan’s essay comments on “a terror that keeps echoing” and how each poem addresses “the vast, unfathomable nature of our human existence.”

Also included in the reading loop is an essay by Christopher Buckley remembering Levis as a fellow Fresno poet and student of Philip Levine and Levis-inspired artwork from Richmond street artist, Larry Lorca.

Xie herself is represented by three poems from her prize-winning collection, Eye Level, and an audio conversation about her work and process. A review of her book by Emilia Phillips also appears here.

As Phillips notes of the book:

For the compulsive underliner, there’s much to mark, including a plethora of aphoristic statements—like “Desire makes beggars out of each and every one of us” and “Beauty, too, can become oppressive if you let it, / but that’s only if you stay long enough”—but, make no mistake, this collection strives beyond its own conclusions, recognizing “the way I don’t know could open / months later like a hive.” Here, Xie’s eye is a globe with an irresistible gravitational pull, drawing toward it subjects of its seeing like moons that, in turn, influence the tides of attention—the poet’s and the reader’s.

We invite your discovery of the work of Jenny Xie and your exploration of the writing of Larry Levis, both in Blackbird and in his books. We thank his sister, Sheila Brady, and his son, Nick Levis, for the opportunity to recognize him here.  end

The Levis Reading Prize is sponsored by the VCU Department of English, VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, the VCU Honors College, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, and the family of Larry Levis.

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