Brigit’s poems are formalist in the best kind of way: as a materially textual revelation of the earth and the spirit in consort; of the prayers, stories, and songs by which we seek this consort; of “the realm of myth, archetype, fable, and metaphor,” as Merrill puts it, that lies beneath “the surface of personal experience.” But her poems don’t just recount this realm. She doesn’t simply read it from the old books. Hers is a constant vigilance, an onlooking so patient and steady that the world releases the secrets of its order.
“In the body’s own words, it cannot live like a vegetable in the country.” I am twenty-one and sitting on a bunk in a shotgun house in Mid-City, New Orleans, reading C.D. Wright. After a few conversations on the phone with a professor at the University of New Orleans, I have come here, weeks after graduating college, to help with an oral history project about the experiences of people who lived through Katrina.
Indeed, in light of economic downturns leading to greater divides between the privileged and working classes, Levine’s poetry only seems to increase in relevancy. Never has there been more urgency for, as Edward Hirsch noted in his essay “Naming the Lost: The Poetry of Philip Levine,” poetry that reflects “the stubborn will of the dispossessed to dig in and endure.”