Wilds by Mark Levine
Reviewed by Ilya Kaminsky


Levine's third book of poetry is filled with meditative lyrics that juxtapose various kinds of diction. As the book proceeds, the poems grow rich in their peculiar explorations of memory and the natural world. Here are studies of the past, where "we were boys, boyish, almost girls./ Left alone on the roof, we would have dwindled," and of the present, with its memorable lyrical portraits ("he wore an air of soiled gravity./ Like a man on a child's train"); there is also a dimension "bent by knowledge of the divine/ collecting us at the exit."

Levine's poems are made alive not only by the clarity of the remembered detail but also by the music of their abstraction ("Swimming for the cord she/ trailed from the hem of her appearance"). To me, the most interesting moments in his work occur when it leans away from musings on grammar toward emotional maturity-a point where he dares a simplicity ("These two women will never meet./ Your mother, my mother. My mother, your bride. My aster, my Philomel, your crone,/ my vocalise). Such moments, attentive in their tenderness, resound with the classical poetry of the English tradition.