Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: Legacy, by Jane Levin

I recently received a slender, elegantly printed book of poems in the mail from Jane Levin, former St. Louis resident now in Minneapolis. She had found this blog, and sent off the poems. I recognized her name from past involvement in the women's movement here in the 1980s, but we had never met. This encounter through the blogosphere, with a slim volume of poetry as the conduit, is the sort of lucky and random connection computers allow.

Legacy is Jane Levin's first book, and is from Moonflower Press (price $8, inquiries to moonflowerpress at gmail dot com). It is slim--20 poems, and most of them are the way Emily Dickinson's poems are brief. Spare, finely edged, and the resonance afterwards is huge. Here is the opener:


her life

is an

tiny islands of dependency
alluring from oooooo afar
up close
a relationship
of sand

she leaves at
oooooooooooo high tide

oooooooooooo floats

Some of the poems are about the author's fight with ovarian cancer; some are deeply sensual lesbian love poems, or poems about the harder societal aspects living a lesbian life; some are about Jewish culture; some are funny. One of my favorites, perhaps because of the title that splices one type of gambling (emotional) into another (financial, as in the commodities market) and layers it into a new understanding of risk, is this:


Clumps of wavy brown hair cover my pillow
like November leaves.
She leans close,
scoops a curly nest into her cupped palm,
wraps it in tissue paper, whispers
just in case.

Tears trickle down my chest,
flat as Nebraska.
She licks the moist prairie,
files its taste under "beloved."

Understated and overpowering -- rare in a first book, where the usual tendency is to over-write.

Lines here will draw you in, and the small poems will enlarge you. They invite close attention, and give it back.


In the interest of conservation
recycle a poem

to kindle
reuse each word
every line

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