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Winter Stars (Pitt Poetry Series) Paperback – March 31, 1985
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--Kliat Paperback Book Guide
“A sprawling psalmic line carries these poems forward as they show off that new interest in discursive meditation which has surfaced in the ‘80s. Levis’s ability to cast his poems out from the self and then reel them in is impressive indeed.”
—The North American Review
About the Author
- Paperback : 104 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780822953685
- ISBN-13 : 978-0822953685
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Item Weight : 5.4 ounces
- Publisher : University of Pittsburgh Press; 1st edition (March 31, 1985)
- ASIN : 0822953684
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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Levis' line is simple without being simplistic, with few words within the lines and a general narrative weaving through the poems as whole entities -- reminding me, in the best way, of country music. Rooted in the real and the rural, the poetry really packs a punch with the sudden materialization of strangeness or abstraction: “So memory sires / Oblivion …” (20); “The last thing my father did for me / Was map a way: he died, & so / Made death possible” (35). These two abstractions are, content-wise, what Levis appears to be most interested in, presenting them as a matter of fact, no two ways about it.
The rurally realistic (often slipping and sidling into the urban) settings and details of WINTER STARS make it hard to argue with Levis' frankness. His poetry is so rooted in the personal experience that it becomes a sort of universal understanding; we experience the world as he once did and as he hopes to understand it in the present. “Why youth,” then? Well, to understand youth -- to understand childhood, to understand children -- is to maybe come to terms with the end of things, that “Oblivion sired” by the memory of who we were and who we will no longer be. Why youth? Because, Levis says, death.
One of the most prevailing motifs throughout Larry Levis's poetry collection, Winter Stars, is the theme of time - in particular youth, age, and how the two intersect. For example, his first poem, The Poet at Seventeen, speaks in a narrative tongue, describing scenes more so than playing with more formal elements, such as sounds. In addition, his first section, aptly titled Winter Stars, explores age in a variety of ways - through looking at the poet as a young person, looking at the past (in particular youth) with the gaze of the unavoidable.
The narrator seems to suggest that everything that happened was destined to happen and to try and change fate adds up to nothing. Winter Stars deals with old age, in particular with stars as signifiers of memory - the most interesting part about the title Winter Stars, which appears three times - as name of the book, name of a sub section of the book and the name of a poem within that subsection, is the concept of Night and Winter as simultaneously the beginning and ending of things: Dawn breaks from night, and starts a new year in January, bringing the spring and the youth of new life with it. However, winter and night also end the season with the end of December and the first light of stars commencing the end of the day. Often, he seems to use the three stages of man in his poems: the child (his son), the father (himself), and the omnipresent man, (his own father).
The work of this poet, the way it is set in this book, is hard not to take as a consistent narrative, with a consistent narrator. Indeed, many of his poems reflect not only personal seeming stories, but some, such as Family Romance, give the authors name as the speaker's name directly. The rest of the poems are written in similar styles with a speaker who's voice feels consistent. This work almost reflects that of an epic poem - one that is not broken up linearly but as small vignettes that formulate a picture of a life, his life, as opposed to a series of independent poems.
I suppose if I had a complaint, it would only be that the cover could have been so much more interesting to reflect the work inside.