blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




 Photo by Jay Paul

Welcome to Blackbird's second Levis Remembered, a visit with the poetry and voice of Larry Levis and an introduction to the sixth annual Levis Reading Prize winning poet, Susan Aizenberg. The prize is given by Larry's family and the Creative Writing Program 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 Susan Aizenberg's remarkable poems and in remembering Larry's matchless witness to the last decades of the 20th century.

In his poem "Caravaggio; Swirl & Vortex" (Blackbird, Vol 1, No 2), Larry describes the moment that felt "Like entering the wide swirl & vortex of history."

In this issue's "Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage," simply one of the great poems of our time, he invites us, step by step, into the vortex as well. In his voice you hear the informal intimacy of that invitation in the direct address of the first line: It's a list of what I cannot touch . . .

This intimacy continues as he unfolds the central story of the poem, that of the Sibyl of Cumae, who asked for eternal life and forgot to ask for youth. The poem encompasses a great deal more than that story, of course, and by the time Larry throws off the last line, with a quiet deference that acts as a ground-wire to the poem's ambition, you have linked your arm with his and left wherever you are for the small New Hampshire post office on a warm afternoon.

Larry read this poem at his first Richmond reading and at most others he gave in his four years here (when you have a great poem, keep it in the repertory). I love listening to him read it here yet again.

We are grateful to Larry's sister Sheila Brady for permission to print "The Space" and feature the readings of "Thimbleful of Water." We are also grateful to the Winchester, Virginia, Public Library and Bruce Souders, who provided the audio of Larry's last reading.

We call your attention to the publication of A Condition of the Spirit: The Life & Work of Larry Levis, edited by Christopher Buckley and appearing in August, 2004, from Eastern Washington University Press. Dave Smith's essay "Larry Levis: Johnny Dominguez, A Letter" is included in it as well as much of Larry's own prose and other essays about his work.

—Mary Flinn  

   Larry Levis Remembered

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