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The Darkening Trapeze: Last Poems

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  238 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The empty bar that someone was supposed to swing to him
Did not arrive, & so his outstretched flesh itself became

A darkening trapeze. The two other acrobats were thieves.
--from "Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside It"

The Darkening Trapeze collects the last poems by Larry Levis, written during the extraordinary blaze of his final years when his poetry expanded into the a
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Graywolf Press
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Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, powerful poems. In truth, I know this is only a first, a preliminary reading of these poems (which I've already two or three times with each reading). Very rich work.

A wonderful Christmas present!
Gerry LaFemina
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To get a glimpse into the work Larry never published (some of these never finished) , is to get a glimpse of the poet's mind at work--spanning approximately the last 15 years of his writing (some of these poems were dropped from the original version of Winter Stars, others were finished before his death), these poems represent Levis's work from when he was working at his highest level--long, almost rambling meditations that engage the self and other, life and art, love and loss. There are some w ...more
Simeon Berry
Larry Levis is one of my favorite poets, but I waited a year to read this after purchasing it, partly because after I read it, there would be no more Levis, and partly because I was afraid to read lesser poems of his after the stylistic and technical crescendo of The Widening Spell of the Leaves (perhaps my favorite book of poetry) and Elegy.

If this were the only Levis I had ever read, I certainly would have given it four stars, but I've read his books many times, and I can't help comparing The
C. Varn
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(Originally published at the Hong Kong Review of Books) Released this year, The Darkening Trapeze consists of the final unpublished poems after Levis’s death 20 years ago. David St. John, a personal friend of Levis and an accomplished poet in his own right, has edited this posthumous collection and added the necessary context in his notes, forward and afterward. As a result, this collection is more tonally and stylistically consistent than most posthumous volumes of poetry. Levis’s work here see ...more
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-favorites
It took me months to get through this one: Primarily because I wanted to prolong my ability to read new poems by Levis.

All in all, I loved it as I love everything that the man wrote in his lifetime. Overall, though, it was a little more uneven than his other collections, due of course to being less of a cohesively planned volume. While I would much rather have access to these poems in this fashion than to never have the ability to read them, it felt a little less satisfying than his earlier col
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: m, poetry
This is such a profoundly inspiring collection, one that I could never have predicted I so much needed to read. After almost every poem I wanted to stop and write my own. There are few 20th-century poets who have elicited this immediate reaction from me. I'm going to be seeking out more of his work. ...more
Stephen J.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, lyrical modern poetry.
Highly recommended.
Jun 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
My cousin was a very talented poet. Wish I had a chance now to sit and talk with him.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The Darkening Trapeze was beautiful and fluid and rapidly joined Atlantis and The Woman I Kept to Myself as one of my favorite collections of poems. Levis's poems in this book are another example (like Song, which I read right before the new year) of mystical surreal construction, dense and toothy and full of feeling. They had a rich emotional texture, growing and sprawling into sometimes massive song-cries. The poems were serious and humorous in turns, dark and glowing; they dealt with loss and ...more
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Posthumous collection eerily detailing the self at its most alone, its most contemplative, and its most persistent. Rich in body/soul dichotomies and the ephemerality of existence, a read that, while it wasn't my usual aesthetic, was pleasing philosophically and as a whole.

"When I knew I wanted them to mean nothing / And suggest everything, desire rushed back into things, / But not into the blossoms & not into the air."
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Levis was a wicked wonder with words, with his angle of vision. This book will destroy you in a good way. I read it very slowly to savor it. If you love poetry, you need this book.

"Gaze out at the rain & listen to the hushed clatter."

"And wait until the objects in the room take back/Their shapes in the dawn."

"...And I will never forget/Being there with him & hearing it & wondering what was going to become of us."
Patti K
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The poet Larry Levis died in 1996 at the age of 49. These poems were
lovingly collected and published this year. Many of them are long
conversations or collages of various scenes of poverty, rough living,
desolation, seeking, and love. We meet other poets, vagabonds, Andre
Breton, Francois Villon, Richard Diebenkorn, and drunks or addicts.
His work is a keening. Always searching for what life's purpose could
be and how to achieve that. Recommend.
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I rather enjoyed reading through the poems. Some I didn't completely understand, others gave me a nice mental image of what was happening. Overall, I enjoyed them.

This book was received free through goodreads giveway
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first book of poems by Levis that I've read. They kept my attention and I may read more of him. Levis died unexpectedly in 1996 at the age of 49 from a heart attack and is described on the cover of this book as "Our Whitman for the late twentieth century." ...more
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was well done, I enjoyed the way this was put together.
Ashley Booth
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Somehow more accessible than Elegy in certain ways, although I'd recommend reading in tandem with Elegy as this is essentially an extension of that book. ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must Read Poetry for 2016--Brilliant writer Larry Levis A posthumous release of his last writings, compiled recently--
Oct 15, 2016 added it
Shelves: grad-school
"Whose childhood is no more than a blackened rafter,/Something left after fire has swept through it?" ...more
Michael Mingo
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I went into this collection admittedly skeptical, expecting this posthumous collection would be more "interesting" than "good." And truth be told, some of my enjoyment here comes from seeing the poems as part of Levis's overall body of work (e.g., immediately hearing "Boy in Video Arcade" from Elegy in the last line of "La Strada here," reading about certain poems' roles in the development of the Winter Stars manuscript, etc.).

But on the whole, the poems presented in The Darkening Trapeze are c
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Though there were a few poems I didn't love, overall I was engrossed by Larry Levis's style. It's truthful and blunt. And a lot of other synonyms that go along with those. ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Larry has an interesting and engaging sense when introducing controversial subjects. You are aware before you realize it.
Jamie Gogocha
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
There were a few poems in this book that stood out to me, but almost every poem had a line or section that made me "wow" out loud. ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just under 4 stars. A few poems didn't reach the level of the rest. ...more
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
The best poems knocked me off my feet. The rest were admirable but not poems I would return to with much eagerness.
Jeff Hoffman
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like I’m going to give the book that contains the last poems Levis ever finished less than five stars. Are you cray-cray? Not a chance.
Prince Jhonny
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: next-level
An inevitably uneven collection, but thrilling in the risks it takes (its low points are more enticing in their ambition than the highlights of your average poetry collection) and the best poems here (usually the ones where LL lets himself stretch out to the max, like "Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside It" and "Poem Ending with a Hotel on Fire") scrape the stratosphere. ...more
Renée Roehl
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Levis has long been one of my favorite poets but this book--the second published of his posthumous poems since his death 20 years ago I believe--just didn't have that lyrical truth telling resonance that I found his other poems of his have. ...more
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: year-2016
Poetry is subjective. Hell, my reviews are subjective because I enjoy stuff that others may not enjoy. It's always hard for me to review poetry. I like modern free verse poetry that tell a story. Larry Levis is a storyteller worth knowing. ...more
Casey Kiser
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, snore-fest
The poems are okay but very few of them stood out for me, nothing too original.
Feb 13, 2016 added it
Shelves: poetry
I'll try his earlier work. Not ready to evaluate this. ...more
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Larry Patrick Levis was born in Fresno, California, on September 30, 1946. His father was a grape grower, and in his youth Levis drove a tractor, pruned vines, and picked grapes in Selma, California. He earned a bachelor's degree from Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) in 1968, a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1970, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa i ...more

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