THE BREAD OF TIME by Philip Levine


Toward an Autobiography
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 Nine autobiographical essays (all published previously in literary magazines) by National Book Award-winning poet Levine, forming a rough but revealing chronicle of influences and inspiring moments--from the author's humbling origins to his contemplations of later life. In the first episode, a gentle tribute to John Berryman- -Levine's mentor in his first year at the Iowa Writers' Workshop- -the life and craft of the poet appear completely entwined. Whether learning at the feet of the prickly but humane Berryman, or subsequently being encouraged as a Stanford Fellow under the tutelage of Yvor Winters, apprentice Levine's circumstances are rendered with wit and considerable feeling. Other experiences, however--including a 1965 sabbatical with wife and children in Franco's Spain that afforded the opportunity to discover and appreciate Spanish poets such as Antonio Machado (with five poems of Machado, translated by Levine, included) and to grasp the full tragedy of the Republican defeat--prove even more moving. In a typically wide-ranging chain of associations, another essay links childhood encounters with class realities in Detroit to much later ruminations on Spanish anarchism experienced while the poet was in Barcelona--with these linked to Levine's apology, through analysis of Yeat's ``Sailing to Byzantium,'' for having failed to live according to the anarchist ideal. Restless, probing fragments of a memoir that mix lyricism and life in equal measure, creating a subtle portrait of the poet both in embryo and fulled formed.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-42406-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1993


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