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Phillis Levin

Lithuania

About this Poem 

“As a child, one of the first questions I asked my paternal grandmother, Jean Blecker Levin, was ‘Where are you from?’ Her answer, ‘Lithuania,’ was my first introduction to geopolitics. Though she could describe her early memories of her family’s small farm, she could not point out her birth country on a map or globe because by then Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union. At the age of three her family emigrated to Reading, Pennsylvania (the hometown of Wallace Stevens) and began to run another small farm. There she met her husband-to-be, Joseph Levin, a Reading native. Her romance with my paternal grandfather lasted until her death.”

—Phillis Levin

Lithuania

Phillis Levin

 

in memory of Jean Blecker Levin

Not a trace, those days, not a sign
On a map of where you were from,
That farm greener than green

Rolling hills, hay high as a barn
Under skies without end, joy
Rolling too, the way it used to.

Now that you’re gone,
The name of the place reappears.

*

Not a map in the world
Will show where you are,
Now that you are long gone

Under the glowing ground,
Lending yourself to the grass,
Joined at last by Joe, who cried,

As they lowered you down,
“Jenny my love, my life.”

*

Wherever you are, being
Nowhere, show me a way
To be here, you who are gone

Into bottomless loam: ivy
Climbing the walls of waking,
The walls of sleep, show me to

Two on a porch waiting
To see the flesh of their flesh.

Copyright @ 2014 by Phillis Levin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 20, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Phillis Levin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 20, 2014.

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

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Poets in Conversation

In this collection of conversations, poets talk with one another about what inspires them most about the art form.

collection

Poetry and Place

In this collection, we examine the significance of place in contemporary American poetry. Here you'll find a range of poems, commentary, and essays that revolve around what we mean by the idea of "home" or of "homelessness" resulting from travel or displacement. Some works deal with a specific time and location, while others focus on a more socially-constructed view of place through the lenses of pop culture and identity. In the end, we hope this collection both confirms and challenges your notion of place in American poetry.

For a more thorough exploration of our theme, check out W. T. Pfefferle's anthology Poets on Place: Essays & Tales from the Road.

Marilyn Nelson
Photo credit: Larry Fink
collection

Poetry and Sports

While sports fans may not be widely known for their literary passions, the relationship between literature and athletic competition can be traced as far back as ancient Greece where spectator sports often included literary events as part of the festivities, and champion athletes were known to commission poets to write their victory songs. Even our own Walt Whitman was a baseball lover. Reporting for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846, he wrote: "In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing 'base,' a certain game of ball...Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious."

We hope this collection not only demonstrates a variety of play and seriousness, but also frames poetry itself—the craft and game of it—as a lively and reactive art form, a pastime as great as any sport.

collection

Summer Reading

If you're looking to catch up on your reading this summer, take a look at this roundup of poetry collections published in the past year.

poem

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas
1937
poem

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack,
      the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
      While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart!
      O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
      O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for
      you the bugle trills, 
                                  
         For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths- for you the shores
             a-crowding,
          For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
             Here Captain! dear father!
               This arm beneath your head!
                 It is some dream that on the deck,
                   You've fallen cold and dead.

          My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
          My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
          The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
          From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
               Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                 But I with mournful tread,
                   Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                     Fallen cold and dead.
Walt Whitman
1867