New Selected Poems

by Philip Levine

Paperback, 1992






Knopf, (1992)

User reviews

LibraryThing member JFBallenger
I came to this collection completely unfamiliar with Levine's work, but intrigued by his reputation as the contemporary poet who best captures the experience of the American working class. After reading this volume, I think the reputation is well-deserved. I've never read anything that better captured the numbing heartbreak of being stuck in work that is beyond the ability of any individual to control and make meaningful, and the stubborn resolve to somehow find real beauty and meaning in life. I found myself thinking of this as a poetic explication of Camus's depiction of the redemptive absurdity of modern man in the Myth of Sisyphus.

That said, it took me a while to warm up to these poems. As with most such collections, the poems are arranged in chronological order grouped according to the books they originally appeared in. My method of reading a book of poetry is to go through the book from beginning to end, dogearing pages with poems or passages that I found particularly effective and know I will want to re-visit. The first 120 pages are virtually uncreased, and it took me literally months of on-again off-again reading to get through them. But beginning with the poems gathered from The Names of the Lost virtually every page is dog-eared, sometimes top and bottom. Every poem seemed to open up a breathtaking world of heartbreak, endurance and occasional redemption. I don't know whether this is because his later poems are dramatically different in quality, or if his vision just clicked for me at that point. But I look forward to going back in this collection to find out, and reading the work that Levine has published since this came out.
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LibraryThing member poetontheone
Many volumes of a poet's selected or collected work often suffer from declining as the poet ages, their later work becoming imitative of earlier work or less inspired. This is not so with Levine, as his poems grow increasingly elegaic and reflective with each period. There is at least one phenomenal poem in every group of selections from each book. From "The Horse" and "They Feed They Lion" to "Sweet Will" and "A Walk with Tom Jefferson", Levine gives us commanding and often tender, beautiful portraits of human beings engaged with struggle and the nature of life and death. He is also a poet who, like Whitman, definitively documents the complexities of the American experience, while his attention to dream and otherworldliness makes him so much more than a poet of the working class. Levine is Rilke with a grease rag in his pocket.… (more)
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
"How Much Can It Hurt?", "You Can Have It" and "Lost and Found"


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