Now Do You Know Where You Are

Copper Canyon Apr. 2022. 96p. ISBN 9781556596339. pap. $17. POETRY
“Thinking again, as I always do, about body and soul.// …How painful it was! To be// such a split creature,” muses Whiting/Jaffee honoree Levin (Sky Burial) in the opening poem of this brave new collection, demonstrating her gift for adroitly considering the big questions. Yet whether she’s contemplating mortality, misogyny, social struggle, or time’s relentless passage, Levin anchors her discussion with a down-to-earth sensibility. “Coffee with some old students. Talking about Fame, Ambition’s glitzy paramour,” she says offhandedly, elsewhere murmuring, “And suddenly—I could see them!—every empire that ever/ rose and fell spread out discs// across an infinite plane called Absolute Now like/ records spinning.” Levin does worry about our fate, with empires crashing, climates degrading (“Five great extinct-/ ions, one in process”), politics scorching us (“Voting backward/ into what/ has already died”), and classes ever stratifying (“Privilege means getting to choose the hour of y(our) doom”), but she takes the long view: “You and death! Lovers who just can’t quit. That’s how we make the/ future—as change goes viral.”
VERDICT Even as it lofts us on high to see the warp and weft of the universe and our own troubled place therein, this collection turns out to be a strangely reassuring read. A satisfying work from an accomplished poet.
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