Mercury: Poems (Penguin Poets)

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9780140589283: Mercury: Poems (Penguin Poets)
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In this new collection, Phillis Levin offers thirty-three luminous poems that extend her reputation as a master of form and an alchemist of the vernacular. In her work, she pushes the boundaries of sound, syntax, and sense--and ultimately makes structures incarnating the complexity of consciousness and the transfiguring power of memor

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About the Author:

Phillis Levin is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. THE NEA grant was awarded in 2007.

From Publishers Weekly:

Conveying a consistently sensitive disenchantment, or even dismay, the poems of Levin's third collection recall the quizzical, fixed unhappiness of a writer like Anita Brookner. Levin's speaker finds fault with an ex-lover (ruefully recalling, in "Morning Exercise," a hickey), her parents and "R.T., who was freckled and chubby,/ but seemed thoroughly happy in her body," and sometimes delves into a formalism so strict and traditional that the results recall 19th-century versifiers like Felicia Hemans: "I have believed in truth, beholding it,/ And many times have been deceived by it;/ For love is double, even when it joins,/ And dispossesses everything it owns." The title poem refers to a vial of mercury the speaker would take from her father's desk to play with, as a "reminder of the refusal to be destroyed," although she is unsure whether such somber thoughts were really hers as a young girl or are convenient screen memories. (Levin teaches creative writing at Long Island's Hofstra University.) Many of the short lyrics here try to pull profundities from blank meditations; "Intervals in Early August" asks, "Do you feel empty because the earth/ Is full, does a door slam shut/ When a gust promises to change you?," while the "Futile Exercise" of a suicide provokes the speaker to wonder, "How do I put together/ The hand that touched mine/ And the cold revolver// Ending failure/ When he pulled the trigger/ With the finger that found/ The splinter/ He was after/ Before." Longer elegies on the speaker's grandmother and "For a Magnolia" offer sensitive descriptions of encounters, and Levin's interpersonal acumen has made her popular on the pages of the New Yorker, the New Republic and the Nation. Taken together, though, these vignettes fail to get beyond their conceits.

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