ONE FOR THE ROSE by Philip Levine


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In Philip Levine's newest and best collection, the rose is a unifying image for the book's nearly 40 poems: a sort of anti-romantic talisman. In ""I Wanted You to Know,"" the poet remembers buying a rosebush for his mother--of the wrong color; in ""The Myth"": ""She combed my hair/ and even put a few tired roses in among/ the curls, which I threw in the garbage/ the first chance I got."" Here and there, a metaphysical musing occurs: ""Above Jazz"" invokes the rose as a figure for the divine. Usually, Levine is caught up in the concrete--often, the poverty and numbness of working-class life. The images are vivid, the voice natural--as in ""The Suit"": ""Three times I wore it/ formally: first with red suspenders/ to a high-school dance. . . . It was so dark no one recognized me,/ and I went home, head down./ . . . / I wore it on the night shift at Detroit Transmission/ where day after day it grew darker and more/ unrecognizably tattered like all my/ other hopes for a singular life in a rich/ world. . . ."" The best of these poems gallop towards doom--toward the chilling fact of personal alienation that waits like a fist at the end of each. Tough, coherent, distinctly American work, however limited in scope and form.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1981
ISBN: 0887483070
Publisher: Atheneum