Mother Calls in the Woman from God and We Work to Bring Back the Dead

Article excerpt

Philip Levine published several poems in the Summer 1956 issue of Chicago Review, "all written," he tells us, "during the first year I was free to do nothing but write poems, which turned out largely to be a year of learning." For the retrospective issue, LEVINE chose to write about a poem we published in Summer, 1975:

I wrote this poem back in 1973 and considered using it in my collection of family poems, 1933, but I thought then that the tone was wrong even though its preoccupations would have fit that collection. I'm not sure why I ever published it, for rereading it l find it far less clear than it should be, and the joke - which is the end of the poem - is awfully hard to get. The poem derives from my continuing puzzlement regarding my mother's use of "mediums" after the death of my father. It did not seem then and it does not seem now part of my mother's nature, for in fact she was a tough, skeptical working woman. Nevertheless a series of these obviously fraudulent characters were welcomed into our house on Saturday or Sunday afternoons and something like a sance was conducted, which I was never part of - in the poem I am present, and I would guess that was what urged the poem into being: the chance to make up the idiocy of the event. It is now over sixty years after the events, and I am no closer to understanding that period in my mother's life, no doubt because I have not suffered such a loss. In 1992 I returned to the same theme, and - I believe - handled it better in a poem entitled "My Mother with Purse the Summer They Murdered the Spanish Poet"; this poem l did put in a book, The Simple Truth. …