Larry Levis was born in Fresno, California, on September 30, 1946. The son of a grape grower, he grew up driving a tractor, picking grapes, and pruning vines of Selma, California, a small fruit-growing town in the San Joaquin Valley. He later wrote of the farm, the vineyards, and the Mexican migrant workers that he worked alongside. He also remembered hanging out in the local billiards parlor on Selma's East Front Street, across from the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.
Levis earned a bachelor's degree from Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) in 1968. He went on to earn a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1970 and a Ph.D. from the University ... more »
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Larry Levis Poems
The Poem You Asked For
My poem would eat nothing. I tried giving it water but it said no,
As I move on with you
Different days, Different hours, Many faces, bouqutes of flowers,
Anastasia & Sandman
The brow of a horse in that moment when The horse is drinking water so deeply from a trough It seems to inhale the water, is holy.
For Zbigniew Herbert, Summer, 1971, Los ...
No matter how hard I listen, the wind speaks One syllable, which has no comfort in it-- Only a rasping of air through the dead elm.
The Widening Spell of the Leaves
--The Carpathian Frontier, October, 1968 --for my brother Once, in a foreign country, I was suddenly ill.
In a Country
My love and I are inventing a country, which we can already see taking shape, as if wheels were passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob- lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw
The Clearing of the Land: An Epitaph
The trees went up the hill And over it. Then the dry grasses of the pasture were Only a kind of blonde light
Those Graves In Rome
There are places where the eye can starve, But not here. Here, for example, is The Piazza Navona, & here is his narrow room Overlooking the Steps & the crowds of sunbathing
Readings in French
1. Looking into the eyes of Gerard de Nerval You notice the giant sea crabs rising.
Elegy With A Bridle In Its Hand
One was a bay cowhorse from Piedra & the other was a washed out palomino And both stood at the rail of the corral & both went on aging
Elegy For Whatever Had A Pattern In It
Now that the Summer of Love has become the moss of tunnels And the shadowy mouths of tunnels & all the tunnels lead into the city,
Elegy For Poe With The Music Of A Carniv...
There is this sunny place where I imagine him. A park on a hill whose grass wants to turn Into dust, & would do so if it weren't
I lay my head sideways on the desk, My fingers interlocked under my cheekbones, My eyes closed. It was a three-room schoolhouse,
Some called it the Summer of Love, & although the clustered, Motionless leaves that overhung the streets looked the same
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The Poem You Asked For
My poem would eat nothing.
I tried giving it water
but it said no,
Day after day,
I held it up to the llight,
turning it over,
but it only pressed its lips
more tightly together.
It grew sullen, like a toad
through with being teased.
I offered it money,
my clothes, my car with a full tank.
But the poem stared at the floor.
Finally I cupped it in
my hands, and carried it gently
out into the soft air, into the
evening traffic, wondering how
to end things between us.