Tag Archives: Thomas Patrick Levy

An Unruly Collage of Strange and Intense Emotions, or Best Ofs For 2012

27 Dec

If I remember right, I saw Scott McClanahan give this performance after Abby Koski got me wasted on rum and Cokes then introduced me to Matt Siegel, and I had no idea what to do.  Or where anyone was.

I didn’t think, “Hey, where are all the people I know” until after.

You can tell I’m happiest not when I smile but slapped into dumb stunned awe like I was watching Scott bark his generations, a latter-day prophet too made of thunder and dirt-real truth for any church, so boiling over with harsh and angelic vision, soothing my frayed thoughts while setting the room ablaze.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not a cheerleader; I’m a lower-tier saint.

This was probably my best moment in the Beauty Bar at AWP 2012, followed closely by drunk hugs from Brian Oliu and laughs with a few others but roundly defeating some other interactions, Hellos I didn’t want to say, Nice to Meet Yous that felt everything but.  Again, some unraveling.  Basic kindness can appear to us as an unblemished lamb, so we take up our knives.

*   *   *

There is a place I go to read and write when I need to recalibrate and push off the stupid shimmery idea of being a writer or an indie lit writer so I can just do the thing without all the shit.  Two people know where that is.  Both of their names start with A.

I took Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby there during the ugliest time of year, when winter is worn out and spring is all, “Whatever, be there in a sec,” when I’m sick of wearing scarves.

I could barely hold a fork, knocked slack-jawed by Baby’s rapacious beauty.  I found myself mouthing the last story, “Zachary, Zahir, Zedekiah,” a real electric rush that swells like Explosions in the Sky, incanting

And then every morning, some new and constant sun, born upon the horizon.

and almost crying in my booth.  I paid, left, and stared at the iron atmosphere too much for safety as I drove.

*   *   *

The cover of Nick Sturm’s chapbook, “WHAT A TREMENDOUS TIME WE’RE HAVING!” with its birthday party horses is the perfect graphic representation of a genuine smile, which seems like the kind of person Nick is (Nick Sturm: A Genuine Smile) and the requisite spirit embodied in that joyous little book.

I remember for a while keeping it in the passenger’s side interior door pocket to show to anyone I gave a ride.  It seems like there are about three people at any given time who are riding in my car regularly, so my evangelism wasn’t far-flung but lacked no enthusiasm.  I generally showed my passengers the poem that ends

                                    …My spirit animal is a bear

with a confetti cannon strapped to its back

The point is to surprise you & then maul you

into pieces of joy

and thank goodness, no one ever said they didn’t understand why.

*   *   *

For some reason I read Matt Hart’s Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless a lot while giving plasma this spring, squeezing myself through a needle with one hand and holding the book with another.  Listening to Jimmy Eat World, Lovedrug, The Smashing Pumpkins, that helped too, to distract from the displaced queasiness that got better little by little but never went entirely away.

It makes sense that his poems helped the same way; the direct mention of Sunny Day Real Estate aside, the upfront guitar fuzz and gorgeous thrash of them calmed and exhilarated.  Every appointment I had a half hour to imagine where else I could be besides Muncie in February, March, April, still slushed and gray.  It felt holy, an internal push toward whatever better places there were to be.

*   *   *

Brian Oliu’s Level End is the first book I’ve ever delayed reading to intentionally take time to absorb its packaging.  I couldn’t stop just looking at the thing, turning it over and getting happier with every detail from a childhood and adolescence spent on four generations of Nintendo consoles, starting with the NES, a game for which the book’s design was modeled after.

When I finally did get to reading the thing the effect was much the same, a combined joy and relief that someone understood so well the real emotional tug 8-bit worlds have on us whose first big adventures included finding the Master Sword and discovering gold-littered shortcuts in the clouds above danger.  And rendered it so truly in its surreal beauty and sincerity; all nerd jokes aside, sitting in front of a pixel-laden TV screen with my big brother, defeating all number of monsters and villains, is one of the most loaded and precious memories I have.

*   *   *

I remember texting

I AM THE OCEAN, I AM THE BROKEN ATMOSPHERE BEING HEALED

to Chris Newgent as soon as I read it, and immediately claimed it in a tiny yet steady fashion for my own near future:  a beach, a flock of friends, an ocean, a slew of present moments far from Indiana.  I read the rest of Thomas Patrick Levy’s I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone with a similar hyper-focused sprint, or as a binge, on the couch in my beige and tan apartment and sunk into myself with relief, consuming its color and breathlessness.

*   *   *

There’s a modest handful of books that wind themselves around the edge of my thoughts almost constantly. I think this is in part a residual effect of being an expatriate of Christianity that took the idea of being in constant prayer deeply to heart:  once the verses about no hope for men outside of Yahweh and his son were discarded from whatever walled garden in me they occupied, there was left a decade’s worth of empty earth.

Ben Kopel’s VICTORY is one of those few books that immediately took root in me.  Fragments of it run through my head throughout the day, quiet meditations on how to stay vital and honest and brave.  This book was the first thing I wrote about for Vouched and it remains one of my favorite, most dearly loved books of poetry or anything else.  When I read it I feel like the first time I realized that wet pavement under streetlight is beautiful.  I feel fifteen, riding with my brother in his Explorer through cornfields at night, summer, hands out the windows, brushing fingertips with fireflies.

I could not tell you what my favorite poem is from the book, but there is one part from the poem “Because We Must” that heartbeats through my thoughts almost daily:

A prayer, now

& at the hour of our death—

Fill me with yr light inside this car.

Fill me with yr light.

*   *   *

Yesterday, Christmas, after my family ate a lot of things then opened a lot of things and then said even more things, I continued reading Sal Pane’s novel Last Call in the City of Bridges.  I get embarrassed with how often the book describes my own tendencies and identity:  self-doubt alongside a sense of superiority, a feeling of specialness bred in part by constant consumption of heroic narratives growing up, strong attachment to video games and college memories, yet another member of a generation that was told by parents and teachers to get good grades or else we’d have to work at McDonald’s then was chastised by parents and teachers for thinking we were too good to work at McDonald’s.  The accuracy is painful.

I’m only halfway through so I can give you no conclusions, other than to state that I’m curious to see what direction a story about the directionless will take, and that reading will take me into 2013, heading in one of many possible directions.

SSR #2 of 15: I Don’t Mind if You Are Feeling Alone

4 Jul

I Don’t Mind If You Are Feeling Alone
Thomas Patrick Levy
Yes Yes Books
100 pgs, $16

Two people who feel inherently alone, are sometimes a little less alone depending on their proximity or the words and circumstances exchanged.

Erasure Single Sentence Review(?): I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone by Thomas Patrick Levy

24 May


Christopher wrote an awesome review of Thomas Patrick Levy’s new book, I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone. I did an erasure of that review, creating this Single Sentence Review or whatever.

I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone by Thomas Patrick Levy

9 May

I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone
by Thomas Patrick Levy
Yes Yes Books, Poetry
100pgs, $16 ($6 for web book)

I’ve been having a hard time talking about books lately. The words just aren’t coming. I’m not sure why. I have so many words. There are nearly infinite ways to string them together. Disregarding context and structure, the possibilities grow even more uncountable.

I first started this review discussing how I’ve changed in the past 5 years since graduating from the writing program at Ball State. I talked about how I would’ve hated this book then. Then, I liked primarily realist work, no tricks, give me subtext or give me death. I devoured Carver, Hempel, Sandburg, Wright. I strayed on occasion. I loved the less playful Brautigan, adored cummings.

I would’ve hated Levy’s I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone then.

Maybe that’s too strong. I wouldn’t have hated it. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it but maybe for some of the more readily available beauty in lines like:

Sometimes there is too much light and the leaves are crushed across our linoleum floor. I fold your dough into itself on the counter. I whisper I AM GOING TO TRY TO FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS. Your eyes watch the strays chase children across our lawn. Your eyes know what it means to sleep through the smallest hurts.

Or:

Sometimes I touch your face with the moisture of my tongue, I press my fingers into your hair while I do this. You are not a desert.

But, I would’ve read Levy’s recent discussion of “negative capability” in a recent interview at Monkey Bicycle as attempting to justify nonsense. I would’ve thought about “The Wasteland” by Eliot, how I learned in school that it was meant to be intentionally obtuse, how I agreed with Stein that while Eliot had written some of the most beautiful lines in the history of the English language, he had written few if any of the greatest poems.

At lines like:

In your eyes of terrycloth I cannot pretend I don’t exist. I try to come apart again, a bathtub or windowpane. I concentrate on you as if I were stepping on a hill of sand. I touch you again, my tongue of branches, my touch of cracking leaves.

Or:

When my heart is the wind the sweet kernel corn is born into me like a splintered two by four. You can’t tell how I bleed each sack of skin into a paper flower. You can’t see my heart which frays like sun-burnt cloth.

I would’ve recoiled, likely. I might’ve read them out loud; I might’ve enjoyed their sounds and the sharp freshness of their images, but ultimately, I would’ve said, “I am tired of these words not communicating anything.”

I know now, words put down with intention always mean something, or mean to mean something. There is still plenty of writing out there like this that I don’t care to “get,” that doesn’t communicate with me. It’s a mystery of chemistry, maybe. But with a title like I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone, I am already invested in this book. I often feel so unimaginably lonely.

So, when Levy, before I even break the cover says, “That’s okay. I don’t mind. Here, I wrote this for you. I’m trying to tell you something. I’m trying to show you something new,” I want to try harder. I want to invest myself in what Levy wants to show me, even if I at first don’t quite understand it beyond words beautifully strung together. I know that now.

Available from:
YesYes Books | Powell’s | Amazon

These 2 Pomes by Thomas Patrick Levy. Srsly.

3 May

At Metazen. Srsly. What to say? I’ve nothing to say. Just read them. You need to. This is part of one of them. Go.

THE LIGHT SOMETIMES CUTS

And we maintain these plans like a bush of herbs. We wait and wait and then destroy them with too much water. We wait too long of course. We wait like birds who do not wait for us to wake in the morning. You know how the light sometimes cuts us. You know how sometimes the light is not a knife but a bandage, how the moment my eyes are open I am checking my email. And then despite our plans we never cross the mountains.

Go now to Metazen.

GO RIGHT AHEAD

9 Mar

Spring Break 2011 WOOHOOHOO

Now, good words by Thomas Patrick Levy in the new Diagram.

In the bottom note, he admits these poems have been accused of being “celebrity worship.” I see no worship; I see frames. Using Scarlett like this allows the poems to say things, uncover emotions, and pull at the reader in ways that approached in a less surface level humorous way. This method dismantles expectations and pushes boundaries in a way that is beautiful, daring, and HELLYEAHCOOL.