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New Selected Poems
by Phillip Levine

Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 0679740562

Rating: 10/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

There is only one source more trustworthy for a good poetry read than your favorite reviewer and that’s a poetry teacher. I am especially fortunate because my most recent one is an once-in-a-lifetime award-winner. She’s won many awards, but the one that counts is mine—“Favorite Poetry Teacher of all Time.”
So, if I have your attention I’ll give the facts here. The teacher is Suzanne Lummis, author of In Danger, and the book she recommended for class reading is Phillip Levine’s New Selected Poems. There were others, of course, but this was my favorite. I even selected the poem I was required to memorize (I know, I screamed, too, but there you have it!) from this collection. (See page 54: “A Sleepless Night”)
Much gentler that most of Levine’s poems, this one spoke to me because it is so hopeful about feeling comfortable in the world, even when we are away from home. An inveterate traveler, I think I liked it because in all this traveling I have been searching for a connection that I never had in the place where my roots were originally planted and grew. Levine’s “A man has every place to lay his head” comes after some delicate imagery that sings to a soul.
I must warn a reader that much of this collection is very gritty, very urban—something Levine is known for. But it is also varied. And it is accessible. There are very few poems in this collection that leave the casual reader scratching their heads, waiting for understanding to come to them.
A nice, fat book of poetry, I feel sure that every lover of poetry will find one in this collection to love—maybe even to memorize.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.
Her book of creative nonfiction, Harkening, a collection of stories, has won three.
Her short stories and poetry are seen regularly in review journals, both print and online, and
she is working on her a book of poetry of her own.
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