Phillis Levin & John Burnside: Words Wanting to be Said

Monday, October 23, 2017, 7:30 pm
Folger Theatre

“The poems in Mr. Memory are a fusion of keen intellect, passion, and wit.” —Elizabeth Spires

Black Cat Bone is Burnside at his best . . . he is a poet of ‘the sonar that runs in the spine’”— Robert Wrigley

Reading together for the first time, John Burnside and Phillis Levin have in common a quiet, formidable strength to their verse. Phillis Levin is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Mr. Memory & Other Poems, a finalist for the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her honors include the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award and a Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia. She is a professor of English and poet-in-residence at Hofstra University.

Scottish author John Burnside has published ten books of poetry, including his most recent and first American publication, Black Cat Bone, winner of both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize. Other awards include the Geoffrey Faber Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Prize. His memoir A Lie About My Father was named the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year.

Loved and Lost
Give me a childhood again and I will live
as owls do, in the moss and curvature

of nightfall
but never really seen,

tracking the lane
to a house I have known from birth

through goldenrod
and alstroemeria;

while somewhere,
at the far edge of the day,

a pintailed duck
is calling to itself

across a lake,
                    the answer it receives

no more or less remote than we become
to one another,

then set aside till we admit

that love divulged is barely love at all:
only the slow decay of a second skin

concocted from the tinnitus of longing.

Excerpt from “Loved and Lost” from Black Cat Bone by John Burnside © 2011 by John Burnside, published by Graywolf Press. Used with permission.