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Prismatics: Larry Levis & Contemporary American Poetry

Prismatics is a collection of the full-length transcriptions of the extended interviews Gregory Donovan and Michele Poulos conducted with a group of America’s most notable poets—including two U.S. Poet Laureates—in making the documentary film A Late Style of Fire: Larry Levis, American Poet. These discussions cover not only their relationships with Levis and his poetry, but also more wide-ranging commentaries on a broad spectrum of American literary life.

Prismatics reflects the multiple angles of perception provided by its fourteen participating poets, including David St. John (who also contributed the foreword), Philip Levine, Charles Wright, Norman Dubie, Gerald Stern, Carolyn Forché, Stanley Plumly, Colleen McElroy, David Wojahn, Carol Muske-Dukes, Kathleen Graber, Peter Everwine, Charles Hanzlicek, and Gail Wronsky. The book’s title points out that Levis’s personal and professional life as a writer provides a prism which leads these discussions to range broadly into a wider portrait of a highly influential era of poets and poetics, personified not only in Levis, but in each of the poets interviewed. In these lively, spontaneous conversations, Prismatics provides an informed and intimate portrait of the risks and triumphs of a life in poetry, a discussion of distinct intellectual, practical, and historical value that’s also emotionally involving—and quite entertaining.

About the book, Terrance Hayes says—

Should some Hollywood biopic ever be inspired by Michele Poulos’ stupendous documentary and these marvelous interviews, the great problem will be finding someone to play the inimitable Larry Levis. These transcriptions double as oral histories, flash memoirs, and spontaneous poetics essays not only about Levis, but about contemporary American poetry in the years spanning his larger-than-life life: 1946-1996. In one interview Carolyn Forché says, “Larry’s poems are suffused with an awareness of human presence.” The same must be said of this rich and spirited collection.

From the editors of Prismatics, Gregory Donovan & Michele Poulos—

Prismatics seeks to honor and keep alive the memory of the poet Larry Levis and his poetry, as well as to provide an honest, involving portrait of a complex artist and his wonderful circle of poetry compadres, including his own teachers. The conversations here in Prismatics reveal a great deal about the personal and literary aspects of his life as well as of all their lives—a fascinating group of highly talented and articulate human beings.
This book is essential for anyone who would like to make a life in poetry. Libraries, creative writers (especially those who teach poetry), and all who take an interest in the challenges, risks, and pleasures of being an artist would also find Prismatics engaging.


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