Tag Archives: David St. John

August

August is kind of an odd month, summer ending, a little melancholy, a little heavy feeling, (especially if it’s an afternoon when you’re listening to the Assassination of Jesse James soundtrack and Antony & the Johnsons, and even when the weather isn’t ungodly hot). August is vacation month, although “No One Goes to Paris In August,” where “Nobody has time like this” and days grow “Late with shade, low, low, long.”

On an August afternoon you might sport a “floppy existential sky-blue hat” and say to your woman, “Woman, I got the blues” and “Sweet Mercy, I worship / the curvature of your ass” and “For us there’s no reason the scorpion / has to become our faith healer.” (“Woman, I Got The Blues” by Yusef Komunyakaa, in Copacetic and his collecteds.) Or on an August afternoon you might sit down for a long, and hi-larious, yarn like David Lee’s “The Tree” (in Day’s Work and A Legacy of Shadows .)

Late August can also be “a pressure drop, / rain, a sob in the body,” and it’s a good time, they say, to plant iris,  or just to sit in the backyard, where “Nothing is endless but the sky. / The flies come back, and the afternoon / Teeters a bit on its green edges,/ then settles like dead weight / Next to our memories.”

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Larry Levis

I discovered Larry Levis only a few months ago. (I feel the same way about that as I did about seeing Spinal Tap for the first time only last year. How could I have been missing out for so long!)

Larry Levis, who died unexpectedly in 1996 at age 49, wrote six books of poetry, including one published posthumously. His early work is lovely but his later work is what I’ve been obsessively re-reading. The poems’ sprawl, or maybe sweep is a better word —  it is never scattered or unfocused. The tone/voice. The sensibility.

And then of course, there are the great images, for instance “he hears the geese racket above him / As if a stick were held flat against / A slat fence by a child running past a house for sale” and “Heaven was neither the light nor was it the air, & if it took a physical form / It was splintered lumber no one could build anything with.”

Robert Mezey called Levis’ poetry “the nourishing shock of fresh ideas that rise from the work of the true poet.” Continue reading

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