Phillis Levin

On Either Side of the Word Lie
January 10, 2013 Levin Phillis

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 has work forthcoming in The Atlantic and Kenyon Review. Her newest book, Mr. Memory & Other Poems (Penguin Books, 2016), was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is the author of four other poetry collections, Temples and Fields (University of Georgia Press, 1988), The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995), Mercury (Penguin, 2001), and May Day (Penguin, 2008), and is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English (2001). Her honors include the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award, a Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in New York and currently is a professor of English and the poet-in-residence at Hofstra University.