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 is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Mr. Memory & Other Poems (Penguin Books, 2016), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; her other collections are May Day (Penguin, 2008), Mercury (Penguin, 2001), The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995), and Temples and Fields (University of Georgia Press, 1988). She is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (2001). Her honors include the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, a Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, Poetry London, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. She lives in New York.