blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




 Photo by Jay Paul

Many of us here at Blackbird had the great pleasure of counting Larry Levis as our friend and colleague. For this reason, we are delighted to offer the first of what we hope will be annual visits to his work and his voice. These visits coincide with the presentation of the Levis Reading Prize, given by Larry's family and the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, to the author of a first or second book of poems deemed worthy by VCU's panel of judges. This year's winner is Steve Scafidi, and his September 27, 2002, reading is a part of our first "Reading Loop." We hope you will explore it not only to make the acquaintance of Mr. Scafidi and his poems, but also to revisit the poetry of Larry Levis and remember the strength of his poetic legacy.

All of those who had the chance to see or hear Larry read from his poems quite likely found the experience memorable, and can probably recall the particular informality of his stance, the way he would lean across a podium to his audience, remove his glasses, dangle them in his hand—thrown slightly whomperjawed from his double-jointed elbow—pass his other hand through his hair, and drop his voice to bring you into the poem, intimately, with a shrug that was a little self-effacing. His speaking voice resonates deeply in his poems, and I cannot read "Caravaggio: Swirl & Vortex" without that voice in my head wrapping its way around "painter of boy whores" and "perfect / Reverse one-&-a-half gainer from the high board." We are finding that one of the pleasures of Blackbird is that it can put the voices that we don't want to lose within the reach of an enter key or a mouse click. I hope you will sit back with Larry here and let his voice put an irrevocable stamp on his poems and on how you will, in the future, hear them in your mind.

We are grateful to Larry's sister Sheila Brady for permission to print "Bell's Tavern" and feature the reading of "Caravaggio." We are also grateful to the Winchester, Virginia, Public Library and Bruce Souders, who provided the tape of Larry's last reading.

—Mary Flinn  

   Larry Levis Remembered

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