I just finished reading The Selected Levis, which features poems from each of Larry Levis’s six collections (including his final book, Elegy, which was published after he died from a heart attack in 1996 when he was just forty-nine). I often find selected editions tedious to plow through; they aren’t able to preserve the arc of each individual book, and, to me, they feel haunted by the poems that are left out. The Selected Levis, however, felt complete in a way that most selecteds don’t. Just as enjoyable as watching Levis expand his technique during the course of the book is watching his themes and images ripen.
Levis was a master at pairing images with sharp, heartbreaking observations, as in “Lost Fan, Hotel California, Fresno, 1923”: “When he lays/ His one good ear to the ground he thinks/ He is the conclusion of something argued over all night.” It is Levis’s sense of ease that I most admire, how his ideas and images are earned, organic. The Selected Levis is an excellent introduction to his work, and it has led me to seek out more.
Bio: Elizabeth Onusko is managing editor of Guernica. Read her last recommendation “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1415/rec_room_elizabeth_onusko_art/.