The Mercy


Publisher: Knopf
Philip Levine's new collection of poems (his first since The Simple Truth was awarded the Pulitzer Prize) is a book of journeys: the necessary ones that each of us takes from innocence to experience, from youth to age, from confusion to clarity, from sanity to madness and back again, from life to death, and occasionally from defeat to triumph. The book's mood is best captured in the closing lines of the title poem, which takes its name from the ship that brought the poet's mother to America: A nine-year-old girl travels all night by train with one suitcase and an orange. She learns that mercy is something you can eat again and again while the juice spills over your chin, you can wipe it away with the back of your hands and you can never get enough.


The Unknowable

Practicing his horn on the Williamsburg Bridge
hour after hour, "woodshedding" the musicians
called it, but his woodshed was the world.
The enormous tone he borrowed from Hawkins
that could fill a club to overflowing
blown into tatters by the sea winds
teaching him...
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"Narrative poems of remarkable honesty and beauty--lines that speak softly and need not raise their voice to capture our full attention."
-- Sarah Manguso, Boston Book Review

"The Mercy is a book for the twenty-first century, revealing the diversity out of which Americans emerged and toward which we continue . . . In our rapidly changing world, we need such vision."
--Kate Daniels, Southern Review