C.L. Bledsoe, The Hollins Critic

In this thick debut collection by Kathryn Levy, emotional intensity permeates the page. These are poems of love and loneliness. It’s as if we are trapped with the emotion.

Imagery of powerlessness and agoraphobia abounds, as in “Hundreds of Nights,” in which Levy makes the Dickenson reference, “Someone is spending a life / up in the attic, preparing …”

In “Another Year,” Levy describes this situation, which has begun to morph from agoraphobia into something like the experience of an anchoress; “A woman spreads / through her house … It’s mourning for nothing / the world would notice.”

In “The Man by the Lake,” Levy describes an aging man, and we begin to see that this agoraphobia might not just be fear to leave a house, but fear to leave our skin. “And why did you need meanings?” she asks, “I can look in the bright / eye of a child / in a photograph / say–that was me / you can see the sign / already–And what / was the sign?”

Levy uses many distancing techniques, aside from imagery of abandonment, alienation and a world one can’t or won’t enter. In “Drawn to the Picture,” for example, she describes the narrator as a separate, named character. There are several references like this.

Levy shows us the world through a kind of haze in this collection, as though seen through a window pane (an image she describes several times.) Sometimes, she looks back to an earlier time; sometimes she looks forward, to the end of winter, for example, or to a point when age will rob her of her memory. She draws upon affecting imagery and ideas–all of us have seen the days of our lives pass uncounted and felt trapped and nameless within our routines.

©2006 The Hollins Critic