On Either Side of the Word Lie
The letters that must be taken away
To find the word nestled inside
Or not yet born. Removing those letters,
Deciding how many, which ones,
Is a science that resembles forgetting,
Dismemberment in the service of song.
Finally a new word rises from its shell,
And if it cannot rise it calls out, saying
It’s time to be said, I’ve been here
All along, but you were reading with-
Out speaking, seeking without seeing
A syllable alone is a seed of light.
Phillis Levin is the author of four volumes of poetry, Temples and Fields (1988), The Afterimage (1995), Mercury (2001), and May Day (2008). She is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (2001). Her poems have appeared in such journals as The New Yorker, Grand Street, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Nation, Agni, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Literary Imagination, The Kenyon Review, PN Review, and Poetry London, and have been published in a broad range of anthologies, including Poetry 180, Poems of New York, The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, and three editions of The Best American Poetry (1989, 1998, and 2009). Her poem “May Day” was featured by Garrison Keillor on “The Writer’s Almanac,” National Public Radio. Translations of her poems have been published in Argentina, Peru, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Israel, and China. Levin’s honors include an Ingram Merrill Grant, the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award, a Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, the Victor Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 1985 to 1997 she was an editor of Boulevard magazine, she has served as an Elector of the American Poets’ Corner of The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York, and is currently on the Council of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. She is a professor of English and the poet-in-residence at Hofstra University and has previously taught at the University of Maryland, The Unterberg Poetry Center, the Johns Hopkins University, The New School, and New York University