blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


LARRY LEVIS  |  Notebook Sketches

When do cartoon doodles and sketches become objects of literary interest? In the cardboard boxes of a poet’s estate, the notebook page as artifact captured our attention, not only because each shows something of Larry Levis’s hand, but of his humor.

“Glue and Tallow,” we believe, is self-explanatory, though we might add that the whinnying whimsy there comes from a man who knew and loved horses well, as his poems show. William Carlos Williams’s epic poem Paterson was intended by its author “to find an image large enough to embody the whole knowable world,” a quest to which he devoted 246 intense pages. Levis sketches a guide to it all on a single scrap of paper, locating for us several vital elements. These include Marcia Nardi, the woman whose sometimes bitter correspondence Williams excerpted into the poem (without her permission), and poor Mrs. Williams, perhaps still upset about those plums, or perhaps about her trip over the falls. . . . In The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, a footnote helpfully clarifies that in the poem, “The Great Falls are imagined as the giant urinating.”

Click on the detail images below to reveal the full page.  

 Glue and Tallow (detail)  Paterson (detail)

    Contributor’s Notes
    Levis Remembered