Poetry Month, Day 25*: Joshua Robbins Recommends Blackbird’s Larry Levis Features

April 25, 2013

I have a recording of Larry Levis reading “Poem Ending with Hotel on Fire” made some time, I think, in the early ‘90s. In his banter before reading the poem, Levis recounts a story about a friend who criticized his work by saying things like, “Your poems are sooooo autobiographical,” to which Levis responds in the recording, “Well…at least I had a life.”

I feel fortunate to have this recording because it has served to ground much of my own reading of this poet who, in recent years, has been admired to the point of his work becoming trendy. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault Levis’s work for this phenomenon. I fault how we read it. And that’s what leads me to my recommendation: Blackbird’s Larry Levis features.

Dig around in the archive some. There’s a trove of valuables just a few clicks away. Here’s just some of what you’ll find if you put in the time:

Rare audio of Levis reading:
“Elegy with a Bridle in Its Hand”
“Winter Stars”
“Caravaggio: Swirl & Vortex”
“In 1967”
“Some Grass Along a Ditch Bank”

Facsimile drafts of “Elegy with an Angel at Its Gate”

Previously unpublished work:
“The Space”

Rare video of Levis reading:
“Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage”
“Poem Ending with a Hotel on Fire”

David Freed’s Drawings of Levis

Read Blackbird. Trace its Levis reading loops. Listen to the Levis Reading Prize recordings. Track his influence.

Let’s get back to the man and his work. The legend can take care of itself.

Joshua Robbins

*Throughout Poetry Month 32 Poems will use this space to praise presses, journals, and readings series that bring poetry to us in a special way. Our hope is that we can point new fans in their direction and publicly thank editors and curators for their work. Check in with us again tomorrow for another poet’s recommendation.

Joshua Robbins is the author of Praise Nothing (University of Arkansas Press, 2013). He teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Tennessee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Mid-American Review, Copper Nickel, Southern Poetry Review, Anti-, and elsewhere.

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