blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1





Welcome to Blackbird’s fourth Levis Remembered, a visit with the poetry and voice of Larry Levis and an introduction to the eighth annual Levis Reading Prize winning poet, Spencer Reece. 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 Spencer Reece’s remarkable poems and in remembering Larry’s matchless witness to the last decades of the twentieth century.

We are also fortunate to reprint here the late Tom Andrews’s review of Elegy, which presented, as did all of Andrews’s prose on poetry, a thoughtful, informed and eloquent reading of the work. The loss of Tom Andrews at an early age was, like the loss of Larry, a severe one for our poetry and a sore one for his friends.

In his review, Andrews notes that one force driving Larry’s work was his desire to be faithful to the world’s presence, a desire informed by his knowledge that his poems could not redeem the misery that they saw. These comments seem particularly apt when we look at “In 1967,” which Larry last read in Winchester, Virginia, shortly before his death. This poem calls us to remember that specific year with both humor and grief, and the poem emphasizes the wry quality of Larry’s wit as it notes that in 1967 anyone with three dollars could have a vision. In this way the poem captures some of the playfulness of the Summer of Love. (As another example of Larry’s playfulness, we offer two cartoon doodles that are typical of drawings that appear scattered in his letters and class notes.)

This light-hearted quality is undercut in the poem’s last stanza that turns instead to those other headline images from 1967, coming not from San Francisco but from Vietnam. This stanza carries a cogent reminder of the current moment, when the doors of perception yet again obscure a war and the young men and women who are falling in it.

We invite you to enter Larry’s work, both in Blackbird and in his books, and we are grateful to his sister, Sheila Brady, and his son, Nick Levis, for the opportunity to recognize him here.

—Mary Flinn  

return to top