I’ve been coming across Mark Levine lately, mostly because I’ve been reading this book (which I pretty much bought because of his poem “John Keats”) but also coincidentally, because the latest issue of Poetry magazine has three of his poems, all entitled “Unemployment” (1, 2, 3). I read those poems at the right moment; for some reason, they just made emotional sense to me and even got me writing a poem that I knew I’ve been wanting to write for some time now.
I found a review of his early collection Debt. It was extremely critical of the book, though strangely, the lines singled out as problematic by the critic (who I like a lot, actually) seem to me interesting, in one way or another. I decided to put them here for my reference, even if I don’t have access to the complete poems from which they were taken.
From “Morning Song”:
Here I am ringing all the alarm bells!
Here I am lighting the ovens!
Here I am waking the guests, here passing out numbers!
Look, I’ve armed the corpses–they’re angry, Boss,
they don’t feel like talking.”
“The head, properly speaking, is an ornament, the icing
on God’s rotting biscuit.” Don’t look now, Partners
in this Poem, but I think we have said the wrong thing.
The Government has stolen my mask, and my skin
is a fiercely decorated, flaming banner.”
“The noises coming from his room like wounded birds
turn out to be wounded birds.”
From “Poem for the Left Hand”:
“I’m all that’s left
behind, half of me. I shall not want”
From “The Message”:
“He found me.
It’s so dark I can hear his finger
pointing at me. Which is my cue”
From “Double Agents”:
They knock on my door in whiteface speaking for God.
Go away, I say, I’m in bed
with my mother, I can’t be disturbed. She denies it.