In her much-anticipated second collection, Jan Heller Levi offers ardent, astonishing, individual poems in a trajectory that seems to suggest a story of one woman's life. But it's the realm of almost, the places of in-betweenwhere rage and resignation, death and rebirth, the sayable and the unsayable, cannot be untwinedthat Levi explores in the simultaneously harrowing and haunting Skyspeak. Here again are the delicious humor and the disarming directnesscoupled with what Alice Fulton has called Levi's "wicked ear"that graced her award-winning Once I Gazed at You in Wonder. Here again are poems electrically alive, "so alive," as the author writes, "it's killing me."
Skyspeak is alternately tender, daring, consoling, outraged, transcendent, and down-to-earth. It earns Levi an important place among the most exciting American poets.
Then one day I heard Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill, in the famous duet from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, and I was done for. Each note unfolding into the next, the journey, the patience of the flute, like the breath of the body, held deep in the body, escaping, up, while those two men share the longest, saddest, extended sigh in the history of the human voice.
And what are they singing about? The liner notes say a woman who threatens their friendship, which they vow to uphold. But I say they're singing life, how we're always losing something, how beautiful that is. from "I Lost My Best Friend to Music"