Temples and Fields
Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 02/01/2009
List Price: $26.95
Temples and Fields
Using nature and history as her raw materials, Phillis Levin crafts a world alive with ideas. In striking experiments with form, rhyme, and meter, she examines the condition of our species. Levin is a voyager in these poems, cataloging the earthly spectacle, tempering her lines with an irony that strikes an immediate blow at the heart of things. By turns rhaposidist and rhetorician, visionary and witness, she transforms the cycle of love and death into a majestic music:
Machines have their own seasons, revolving
Around us, though nature is not their fulcrum.
They too move beyond repair to neglect,
But cannot die like a diving falcon
Or repeat, in the end, names that inflect
As the sum of one’s parts stops working.
Unconverted by death, they know nothing
Of the glory of noise and the daily
Trade of the ugly and the beautiful
We have listened to, in stories of many
For whom engines were passions, and the feel
Of life the sense of a great sound building.
In language that fuses the discursive and the lyrical, the contemplative and the dramatic, Phillis Levin renews metaphysical inquiry. Temples and Fields becomes finally a study of joy and terror—“the meticulous counting down / Of beginning leaf and scattered petal”—and of the primordial link between the human and the divine.
A lost age of gold haunts these deft and intense poems. At their best they show us how to claim it for our own.
Temples and Fields has any number of finely constructed ideas, sanctuaries for this poet's devoted intelligence—and all around them stretches an inviting expanse of natural detail. As we move among Phillis Levin's cool, stately, fluted lines, their marble miraculously 'embeds . . . its igneous past, / Being made of what it was not.' We emerge refreshed, believing, grateful.
—J. D. McClatchy
Over the surface of these poems the play of light and shadow is traced with steely delicacy, and yet they're big-hearted and tough-minded poems. Their maker is already an accomplished stylist, and too mature to show off her formidable skills; instead, she uses them . . . . Phillis Levin's debut should be met with gratitude.
Her fierce intellect sanctifies the brilliant architecture of these poems with a promise of love.
Norma Farber First Book Award, Poetry Society of America