Foetry.Com
April 21, 2014, 08:38:15 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Foetry.Com v.2 Forum Archive Through May 2007
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 6
  Print  
Author Topic: Workshop the Experts: Jeffrey Levine  (Read 39736 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
alan
Administrator
*****
Posts: 1314



WWW
« on: February 20, 2007, 12:04:27 PM »

Jeffrey Levine has built an empire for himself in his short time in po-biz.  Here's a sampling of poems by him in the E-text collection at University of Texas.  Please pick one or more and provide a critique.  We won't even charge him $900.
Logged

"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
__________________________________
Alan Cordle
Sim
Newbie
*
Posts: 45


« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 11:51:40 PM »

I think, that one would not be able to tell those from the entries to the Anne Knish Contest ( http://foetry.com/newbb/viewtopic.php?t=911 ).

I was thinking to write another quiz based on this observation, but not sure how important this guy is. I made a Google search  for "Jeffrey Levine" + poet and got less than 20,000 entries. In contrast, Ezra Pound has almost 800,000.
Logged
Wilson
Newbie
*
Posts: 768



« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2007, 03:12:45 PM »

so he is not Better Than Ezra.  Smiley
Logged

his is the abyss--quit staring!

Wils
Monday Love
Administrator
*****
Posts: 1130



« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2007, 04:57:25 PM »

Finger Painting

The subject, his son's finger painting, is sentimental, but OK, any subject can work if done right, but Levine f8cks up, because the narrator pours on these exaggerated, untrustworthy descriptions: 'the generic love songs which you hear in Venice or Madrid?" How pretentious.  Let's get even more sentimental--as well as pretentious, shall we?  If you're going to talk about your son's finger painting, don't get all pretentious.  You ruin an already sentimental start pretty quick.  "That smell."  Oh, yes, we know just what you mean!  We're totally with you!  The poem is finally all about him "I start daubing it myself" and "I sat here dazed."  Like most bad poems, it throws in too much which distracts and does not add.  It has no unity.  It's sort of odd the way the son is not there at all, and yet the painting is wet and being worked on during the real time of the poem--or at least that's what it seems like.  "the maple outside burned bright enough to blind me" is another phrase which is just not trustworthy.  The poet strains after this 'mystical ecstacy' but it's not earned at all.  There's no strength or consistency of tone or image to support the poet's exaggerated rhetoric.  Not a bad try, actually, but the poem's a failure.
Logged

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Sim
Newbie
*
Posts: 45


« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2007, 07:19:31 PM »

Quote
so he is not Better Than Ezra.  Smiley

He is 40 times less well known than Pound. This means that a joke about him will not resonate. In this sense he is not better. I learned who he is from this website.
Logged
Monday Love
Administrator
*****
Posts: 1130



« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2007, 08:38:07 PM »

The Misunderstanders by Jeff Levine

Good poets will boil down the essence of what they are trying to say, but Levine doesn't do that here.  This poem rambles.  It has no drama beyond the poet's own vague and disjointed speculation--based on slovenly reading.

Levine thinks this is all the reader deserves, to hear Jeff Levine thinking outloud.   The poem begins dully, and at first one wonders whether it begins dully as a way to disarm the reader, so that Levine's observations and insights will slip gently into the reader's consciousness to finally enlighten and illuminate and amaze, but alas, as one continues reading the awful truth becomes apparent: Levine has nothing interesting to say, nor really knows what he is saying; he's just--rambling.

Somewhere in the Babylonian Talmud it is written,
God kissed Moses on the mouth.
I can’t find it in my Bible, not anywhere—
though they spend a long, long time together alone
upon the mountaintop, God and Moses


Yea, they did spend a long time together alone on that mountaintop!  What do ya think happened, Jeff?  

Good grief.

so it must be there, locked inside the ink,
locked inside the obedient and trembling hand
that held the pen, before the hand turned to stone
and the kiss to stone and the stone kept its counsel.


What does it mean to be 'locked inside the ink?'   What does 'the stone kept its counsel' mean?   Let's see...Jeff Levine thinks he read something once, but he can't find it, but through brilliant deduction--"though they spend a long, long time together alone upon the mountaintop, God and Moses," Jeff Levine knows it "must be there, locked inside the ink" where stone keeps its counsel.  OK, yea.  A stone covered in ink which no one can read, right?

Next stanza:

There’s the face of God, his arm and fingers, mouth—
but when it came to breathing life into Adam
the Lord sent an angel, a second,
who must have liked it here among us
or liked the kissing too,
because he drew back ten thousand more—
angels who surround us in our beds and at our tables—  
the front seats our cars,
but have trouble with our language.


What sort of sentence is this?  "There's the face of God..."  Is Levine saying "there's the face of God" like he's pointing to the actual face of God?  Or is he just making a general observation?

All of a sudden Levine takes on the voice of authority.  There's no explanation why the narrator goes from, "I think I read something..." to "the Lord sent an angel" for where does it say that the Lord sent an angel to breathe life into Adam?  Is that in the Bible?  Or that the angel "liked kissing"?   Levine goes from speculating on what may be in the Bible to proclaiming things that are not in the Bible.  Why do they have "trouble with our language"?  Levine is just making things up willy-nilly, putting angels in our cars, (though I'm not sure why the line reads, "the front seats our cars,") but this is fine, I guess, because Levine's notion of angels who like kissing is endearing--and cute.

But wait, it gets better:

Male bodies they have, says the Talmud,
indistinguishable from God himself,
but for the wings, or do I just imagine wings
the way I see our passions having wings?


Does Levine write "Male bodies they have"? because he thinks this odd word order makes him sound wise and theological?   When Levine asks "do I just imagine wings," does he really think the reader cares at this point whether Levine imagines the wings or not?

These messengers, then, take orders,
make deliveries: breath of life, kiss of death,
and always overhearing but not getting what we say.


This stanza is merely a (dull) repetition of what has already been said.  Angels are messengers.  They take orders.  They make deliveries.  Breath of life, kiss of death.  Kiss of death, that's a good one.  And here's the kicker: "always overhearing but not getting what we say."  

Better not to understand,
and better still, raise misunderstanding to an art,
There’s an ironic God for you—a God worth knowing.

A rueful God—


Yes, it perhaps is better not to understand.  I quite agree.  Oh yes, and "there's an ironic God for you--a God worth knowing." What is Jeff Levine talking about? Can anyone tell me?

Now we get a quotation.  A good Bible quote will come to Levine's rescue, no doubt.

I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created—
Men together with the beasts,
creeping things, and birds of the sky;
For I regret that I made them.


Does this mean that Levine regrets creating his poem?

Does his love for Moses turn to stone?
“One kiss may ruin a human life.”
I forget who said it.


Levine is mumbling to himself now.   I'm bored.  So let's make a quick end to this.

Some presume when God turned his back
he only meant to hide his genitals,
turn away and fasten up his robe.

God has genitals?
So then the angels.

Still, God trusts none of them,
none of us.


God has genitals?   Still, God trusts none of those genitals.  Not one!  And he doesn't trust us, either!   Tell it, Jeff!  Tell it!

And, heaven of mercy, the poem ends:

Who’s more guarded than this God of ours,
blessed be he, keeper of secrets,
who sends his angels to watch us in our daily lives,
and causes them to misunderstand?


The big theme seems to be angels not getting what we say.  Wait, I think I get it.  The angels are the critics who cannot understand Jeff Levine.  That must be it.
Logged

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Sim
Newbie
*
Posts: 45


« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2007, 06:45:32 PM »

After reading the above love-speech, I was compelled to defend the poor wretch. So I re-read his poems trying to find in them something good, I could complement him on. But I could't find anything.
Logged
Expatriate Poet
Newbie
*
Posts: 150



« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2007, 06:07:07 AM »

DISCLOSURE: CONFLICT OF INTEREST
re. JUDGING JEFFREY LEVINE on AGNI

Because I received an entirely bogus review of a book I sent to Jeffrey Levine in his capacity as editor-in-chief of The Tupelo Press after last July's Open Reading, and because for an additional $295.00 Jeffrey Levine had the affrontery to offer me yet another, fuller review of the same book AND a private 30 day deadline extension AND a bye through the first round of cuts for the subsequent Dorset Prize Competition, AND because he couldn't be bothered to reply to my letters querying the above flagrant abuses of the trust I had placed in him, I do not feel able to write a review of the poem by Jeffrey Levine that has just been posted on the AGNI website. I also confess that I'm haunted by the photograph of the smiling face of the same poet/cum/editor as he shakes the hand of the winner of the same Dorset Prize Competition, not having excused himself from the panel that judged the award as I had asked him to do, myself having already submitted a different m.s. (plus additional check) to the second competition, and feeling that I too had the right to the level playing field he had promised so publically to honor. I also confess that the halo of golden hair that frames Jeffrey Levine's face in the photograph so contrasts with what I know of him personally that the gorge rises, and I'm unable to appraise his work objectively.

But is there anyone else out there that feels able to discuss the work of this conspicuous but shadowy literary connundrum? Because we ordinary people have so much to learn about judging poetry impartially, and simply mustn't miss the opportunity when we get it! What does Jeffrey Levine want us to know about himself and his world and his taste for poetry in this poem, for it's an odd time for him to be going so conspicuously on-line just now, isn't it? So what's reviewable here? What's of value, and what's bogus?

Here's the URL: http://www.bu.edu/agni/poetry/online/2007/levine.html

So let's start a dialogue here.

1.)  Can we take seriously a poet who cons another poet with a bogus review?

2.) Can we trust the judgement of a judge so caught in flagrante delicto?

3.) Can a poem reassure us even if the editorial judgement doesn't?

And you AGNI editors? Does this matter to you? Because indeed I came upon this poem because I was searching your site for your guidelines? Reassure me, you AGNI editors--tell me why I shouldn't judge you by the company you keep?

I've long admired AGNI, and CRAZYHORSE too, and would have felt honored to have been published by either of you in the past. Explain to me why I should still admire your standards today, or do you want to pretend you don't know anything about Jeffrey Levine but the poetry he writes?

Which brings us back to this poem. Is it so good its worth forgetting the rest?
Logged

Christopher Woodman
Monday Love
Administrator
*****
Posts: 1130



« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2007, 04:14:58 PM »

Levine's poem is half-baked.  

The poet is obviously happy and enjoying sunny weather by the sea, but the poem's conceits are unrealized and fall flat: Spanish 'vowels...ripe as sorrow' delight the dog--why?  

Levine works hard to convince us that the dog is a thing apart from the human condition, apart from human hunger and complaint, and so 'this music thrilled her wild heart' and 'vowels pried open round and ripe as sorrow' are sentiments which seem forced in the dog-context, as does the very sentimental line, 'laughing that way dogs have.'  

Levine stumbles into doggy-sentimentalilty, betraying a self-indulgent calculation: 'ripe as sorrow' ripens in the poem too soon and in the wrong place.  Levine has manipulated a poem's nice parts in a hackneyed manner, like an editor bungling the contributions of skilled contributors.  

One can see from the yearnings of his poetry that Levine has the intelligence to appreciate a poet like expatriate poet; which makes it all the more sad that he has abused him.

Just one more example of how Levine's Agni poem is not put together well: the narrator has a 'sunburn,' and seems to be a lazy, hedonistic type and thus nothing in the poem prepares us for the poet's puzzling summer 'warning' to the dog and child of a spring thaw.  The puzzling and unexpected aspects of the poem--the child who happens by with a book, the narrator's odd warning with its image of ice floating south past cliffs which conclude the work--are its best aspects, but the ill-fitting sunburn/dog-sentimentality atmosphere does not allow these elements to  live, and so they arrive with promise, but finally stillborn.

Half-baked was the first word to arrive after I finished reading the poem a third time.  I laughed, when, by chance, I saw the example of the word's use in my Webster's: "a half-baked scheme for getting rich quick"  

Levine is obviously a schemer, but one who is pulled in too many directions: musician, lawyer, editor, poet, and thus the 'half-baked' nature of his work.

I couldn't help but notice that Levine's poem uses the word 'expatriate.'

Lastly, AGNI refers to a pagan god of fire, according to the magazine's editors, but the word 'agnize' has this meaning: recognize, acknowledge.

Levine's failure to acknowledge the poets, such as 'expatriate,' he has treated poorly will earn him notices such as this.

One can see the person in the poems.  

Foet!  Here is thy mirror!

I read Vallejo to Antonia outloud on the deck, ocean-side,
her black nose pressed upside down against the clear bowl
filled with plums, chilled nectarines, and cherry sprays.
As she showed no interest in the poems or fruit, I made sounds
in Spanish, rolled the nouns for ‘rock’ and ‘earth,’ growled
the verb for ‘darken,’ and this music thrilled her wild heart,
those lightened trills, vowels pried open round and ripe as sorrow.
My prophets all go away to think, I said in English,
every one of them, a recession of doubters, and bored
by the blandness of the native tongue she rocketed
past the sea wall through the surf, muzzle lowered, scattering
hermit crabs and gulls, laughing that way dogs have.
Shaking water on my sunburn she looked me in the eye, that slight
quiver in her leg, as a passing child with the face of a goddess,
with such a face, open and no part of sadness in it, said, I’m Grace,
only that, and handed me a book about expatriates lost somewhere hot
and unforgiving, lost and sick for home—though who would give
such a book to her, or why she wanted me to see it, I couldn’t say.
Think of the coming thaw, I warned, though she she’d run off
with Antonia and neither one could hear me, I said remember
how thin plates of ice break apart in the tide pools come spring
how they slide past the cliffs, palisade whitely south.
Logged

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Expatriate Poet
Newbie
*
Posts: 150



« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2007, 01:51:46 AM »

Quote
Monday Love wrote:
  Levine has manipulated a poem's nice parts in a hackneyed manner, like an editor bungling the contributions of skilled contributors.
 
*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
Levine's failure to acknowledge the poets such as 'expatriate' [Christopher Woodman] he has treated poorly will earn him notices such as this.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
One can see the person in the poems.
 
Monday


With Monday Love's encouragement I will risk being dismissed as an embittered loser--anyone who assumes that about me has only to read back over my posts on this site to find out precisely what I said and did after the Tupelo Press July Open Reading debacle. I'm also too old even to think about applying for a job in an MFA program what's more laying the groundwork for tenure, so there's nothing in it for me anyway, at least financially. On the other hand, there's a great deal in it when it comes to my self-esteem as a late-blooming artist, particularly as I have worked so hard to be true to what I really do believe is a sacred calling. That's why I saw red when Jeffrey Levine told me it was just that with one hand while he tried to bilk me with the other! Indeed, I shall never use the phrase again in my life!

And I really do believe that Jeffrey Levine's AGNI poem shows where the treachery lies, because it's a fashion statement, not some poet's epiphany as it pretends to be. And that's awful, you AGNI and CRAZYHORSE editors, it really truly is. So you've got to heal yourselves now as champions of true poetry, you good people--otherwise you will become a part of the problem, and a menace to it!

Just read the poem while you look at the photo of Jeffrey Levine awarding the Dorset Prize on the last Tupelo Press announcement--both say exactly the same thing about the man!

Because Jeffrey Levine’s decision in the poem to place his designer bowl of "plums, chilled nectarines, and cherry sprays" on a Long Island "deck, ocean-side" beside a dog called "Antonia," almost certainly a golden retriever, "wild heart" not withstanding, as a setting for his gratuitous recitation of  "Vallejo," and "in Spanish," tells it all too, doesn't it?. Indeed, this is a boutique poem, and as pretentious in the mouth of its dissembling author as the mish-mash mystique of the 20 year-old poetaster from Queens who, after a short junior-college vacation in Europe, wears a beret, a Vespa t-shirt and tyre-tread sandals while pretending to read Liberation on the Manhattan subway.

"Lost somewhere hot and unforgiving" indeed, "lost and sick for home"—the dream of every suburban wannabe Rimbaud!

So do we entrust our own hard work to this unscrupulous, attention-craving editor? Do we feature his half-baked poetry in a prominent literary review?

(What am I doing here indeed!)

Christopher
Logged

Christopher Woodman
Briggs Seekins
Newbie
*
Posts: 39


« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2007, 08:36:50 AM »

"because it's a fashion statement, not some poet's epiphany as it pretends to be."

That sums it up exactly. "A fashion statement" is maybe the best possible descriptive term that could be applied to it.

"And that's awful, you AGNI and CRAZYHORSE editors, it really truly is. So you've got to heal yourselves now as champions of true poetry, you good people--otherwise you will become a part of the problem, and a menace to it!"

But I'm not sure why you think AGNI and CRAZYHORSE were not already part of the problem. They have both certainly published good poems, but they are English department literary journals. Fashion statements by well-connected insiders are always going to play well with them.
Logged
Monday Love
Administrator
*****
Posts: 1130



« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2007, 01:34:17 PM »

Here's the secret to Levine's poem.  Check out the Miranda Trifle bowl...

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/glass-metal-bowls/serving-dishes/v

A steal at $28.95!

Goes with any 'cherry spray, deck, by ocean, with dog' poem!
Logged

hisper and eye contact don't work here.
Wilson
Newbie
*
Posts: 768



« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2007, 03:10:07 PM »

Briggs, you beat me to it.  AGNI and Crazyhorse ARE symptoms of the problems.  

Universities breed more problems than they will ever kill.  

Before anyone is allowed to teach anywhere, they should be required to not only take and pass, but ace, an ethics course.  And then there should be follow-up ethics oversites in place.  And those oversites should be independent of the University or College.
Logged

his is the abyss--quit staring!

Wils
agni
Newbie
*
Posts: 1


« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2007, 02:45:40 PM »

AGNI accepted Jeffrey Levine's "Antonia Refuses the Nectarines" many months ago -- long before the contest issue arose -- signed a contract with him, and he approved the online galleys also before we knew of any problem.  We felt a strong ethical obligation to continue with the posting of this one poem.
Logged
Ed Dupree
Newbie
*
Posts: 352



« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2007, 03:44:53 PM »

Quote
Here's the secret to Levine's poem.  Check out the Miranda Trifle bowl...



O brave new Bowl, that hath such trifles in't!


One more failing of Levine's poem is its unrhythmic sloppiness; it's scarcely more organized than newspaper prose. Then there's the almost total absence of vowel music--a thing he's at pains to tell us he hears and savors in Vallejo's Spanish. These sins alone would keep it from being a real poem, even if it had any deep or sincere feeling in it.
Maybe I'm more irritable than usual on these points because this morning before work I spent some time with Edward Thomas's wonderful poem "Words".


About Agni, well, for me the end came when they printed a new poem by a Boston-area poet accompanied by a page or two of photos of it in handwritten manuscript drafts, and some solemn commentary. It was an instant classic.


Ed
Logged

Could it be, we are not free? It might be worth looking into."
                    --Samuel Beckett, Molloy
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 6
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.2 | SMF © 2006-2007, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!