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Remembering Philip Levine

TIR Staff

Today we're remembering former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine (1928-2015). An alumnus of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he was a frequent contributor to The Iowa Review in its early years, publishing the following poem in our Spring 1978 issue; we offer it here in gratitude and memoriam.

Let Me Be

He left us the same way he lived—with a gentle smile: Tomaž Šalamun in memoriam

Aleš Debeljak

It was Wednesday afternoon, and I had shown up at the door of the apartment on the second floor of number 11 Dalmatin Street in Ljubljana for a short visit. I sat for a while at the bedside of my dying friend, who lay beneath some big, evocative canvases painted by Metka Krašovec, his life companion, inspiration and helpmate, an artist of surfaces, colors and lines. Although the speech of the 73-year-old poet had already taken on muted tones, this was a perfectly distinct whisper, expressing affection and framed in a smile. I slid a few drops of water onto his faintly parched lips and stroked his cheek, which was as flawlessly smooth-shaven as ever. I gave him a kiss on the forehead and said goodbye.

Brenda Hillman's SEASONAL WORKS WITH LETTERS ON FIRE

Karen An-hwei Lee

The latest collection by Brenda Hillman, an exploration of living phenomena and their mysteries, ignites a fiery post-lyric grammar of existence. Hillman’s devotion to social justice—her unwavering belief in poetry’s capacity to address root causes of our political strife—ultimately purifies our fallen world in the languages of elemental fire.

Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire is organized in two parts, “I. On the Miracle of Nameless Feeling” and “II. A Sense of the Lively Unit,” wherein the politics and aesthetics of our environment—and the poetics of a spiritual realm—converge in an abecedarian manifesto:

“Ecopoetics Manifesto”

p. 29 “radical intensity, uncertainty, complexity, contradiction” in lettered fragments
vs. anthropocentricism

Brian Blanchfield's A SEVERAL WORLD

Zach Savich

One might miss, in the exquisitely shapely poems of Brian Blanchfield’s second collection, A Several World, how frequently the poems’ brash dazzle gives way to wit. In the book’s second poem, “The City State,” for instance, one might still be reeling from the invocation of an expansive shopping list (“bone buttons, stronger cord or—what / more did you need?—hard rolls, then fish and flowers in / descending sectors”) when we get this quick exchange: 

Remember answering machines? The gods,
be they pleased, of whichever specific needs, accommodating
singly. Barnaby, after the tone, this is the guy from the grove

Peaches are in. Snap beans (ping in the bowl.). Good surprises
if you hike up into the higher coppices with me in mind.

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