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In the Surgical Theatre

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A doctor contemplates Lenin's embalmed body; two angels flank an open chest during a heart transplant; a father's anger turns into a summer thunderstorm... Each of Levin's poems is an astonishing investigation of human darkness, propelled by a sensuous syntax and a desire for healing."This is the language of a prophet: Levin's art, in this book certainly, takes place in a A doctor contemplates Lenin's embalmed body; two angels flank an open chest during a heart transplant; a father's anger turns into a summer thunderstorm... Each of Levin's poems is an astonishing investigation of human darkness, propelled by a sensuous syntax and a desire for healing."This is the language of a prophet: Levin's art, in this book certainly, takes place in a kind of mutating day of judgment: it means to wipe a film from our eyes. It is a dare, a challenge, and, for all its considerable beauty, the opposite of the seductive...Sensuous, compassionate, violent, extravagant: what an amazing debut this is, a book of terrors and marvels."-Louise Gluck, from the Introduction Dana Levin was raised in Lancaster, California, in the Mojave Desert. She has received fellowships, grants, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Arts Council, and New York University, where she received her M.F.A. She lives in New Mexico and teaches Creative Writing at the College of Santa Fe.


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A doctor contemplates Lenin's embalmed body; two angels flank an open chest during a heart transplant; a father's anger turns into a summer thunderstorm... Each of Levin's poems is an astonishing investigation of human darkness, propelled by a sensuous syntax and a desire for healing."This is the language of a prophet: Levin's art, in this book certainly, takes place in a A doctor contemplates Lenin's embalmed body; two angels flank an open chest during a heart transplant; a father's anger turns into a summer thunderstorm... Each of Levin's poems is an astonishing investigation of human darkness, propelled by a sensuous syntax and a desire for healing."This is the language of a prophet: Levin's art, in this book certainly, takes place in a kind of mutating day of judgment: it means to wipe a film from our eyes. It is a dare, a challenge, and, for all its considerable beauty, the opposite of the seductive...Sensuous, compassionate, violent, extravagant: what an amazing debut this is, a book of terrors and marvels."-Louise Gluck, from the Introduction Dana Levin was raised in Lancaster, California, in the Mojave Desert. She has received fellowships, grants, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Arts Council, and New York University, where she received her M.F.A. She lives in New Mexico and teaches Creative Writing at the College of Santa Fe.

30 review for In the Surgical Theatre

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Although I find it a great luxury, and feel so fortunate, to be inundated with poetry, one unfortunate side effect is that it’s now rarer for a poem to give me chills, to cause that visceral reaction that thrills me into reading it again right away. When this does happen, I am ecstatic and reinvigorated by poetry’s power. Hence, I am happy to report that this phenomenon happened several times in Dana Levin’s extraordinary first collection. In poem after poem, she meditates on the grotesque and Although I find it a great luxury, and feel so fortunate, to be inundated with poetry, one unfortunate side effect is that it’s now rarer for a poem to give me chills, to cause that visceral reaction that thrills me into reading it again right away. When this does happen, I am ecstatic and reinvigorated by poetry’s power. Hence, I am happy to report that this phenomenon happened several times in Dana Levin’s extraordinary first collection. In poem after poem, she meditates on the grotesque and finds sublimity in the intricate connection between the minutiae of the body, its miraculous functions and malfunctions, and the leaps of faith it takes to be present in this humanly flawed world. Yet, the beauty of these poems is that they are grounded in very recognizable human situations that Levin masterfully observes and harvests for their metaphoric qualities. As the title suggests, this book takes place in a “theatre” of sorts: a place where human drama is displayed for all to access its lessons and postulations on how to be better at being human.

  2. 5 out of 5

    unnarrator

    I re-read this on the train this week and upgraded my review, because I'd forgotten/never noticed how effing amazing the first section is. The second and third sections don't quite (quite) blow the top of my head off in the same way, but hey. I can see their projects more clearly now--I think I was just too young/dumb/envious when I read this before. It's stupendously good--as Gluck says in her introduction, its consistency and coherency and just plain balls-out strength of voice, for a first bo I re-read this on the train this week and upgraded my review, because I'd forgotten/never noticed how effing amazing the first section is. The second and third sections don't quite (quite) blow the top of my head off in the same way, but hey. I can see their projects more clearly now--I think I was just too young/dumb/envious when I read this before. It's stupendously good--as Gluck says in her introduction, its consistency and coherency and just plain balls-out strength of voice, for a first book, are astounding. That it's paced throughout the whole ms without losing its sense of urgency is even more of an accomplishment. Levin seams vast swaths of poem together with devices such as the repeated insistent questioning (variations on Plath's "Will you marry it, marry it, marry it?")--and maybe I never got before this reading that the "you" of almost all the poems indicates a direct challenging address to the self? What can I say, I'm slow to catch on. Fantastic stuff which I will urge onto students for as long as they let me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    from In the Surgical Theatre by Dana Levin: Body of Magnesia When the door between the worlds opened I ceased to be a ghost, I became the blood in my fingers in the veins of my hands I felt the world under my feet with its nails and its splinters I felt the salt the red water in the loam of my chest I was no longer a ghost, the vapors were gone, I was solid, I hurt, my wings could be broken, it was joy, I was living in it, I bled, I cried.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Wow. Wow! It took me several months to 'finish' this collection because I was compelled to re-read over and again many (most) of the poems. That doesn't happen too much for me anymore; read Steven Rydman's awesome review and you'll get a good idea of what I mean, I think he says it perfectly. These poems are certainly grotesque, yet they are also terribly beautiful, savage in their intensity--full of bodies, metal and bone, decay, light. Levin does not avert her eye to the gross horrors of the w Wow. Wow! It took me several months to 'finish' this collection because I was compelled to re-read over and again many (most) of the poems. That doesn't happen too much for me anymore; read Steven Rydman's awesome review and you'll get a good idea of what I mean, I think he says it perfectly. These poems are certainly grotesque, yet they are also terribly beautiful, savage in their intensity--full of bodies, metal and bone, decay, light. Levin does not avert her eye to the gross horrors of the world but nor does she dampen feeling or the quickness of spirit that peeks out from the wreckage. I also thought these poems were masterful in their use of line, breath, and form. Unbelievable. This is a collection I'll return to several times over the years.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    After reading a current poem of Levin's on Twitter I decided to check out her work, starting with In the Surgical Theater, her first book. Wow. Almost every poem is a revelation and a delight to read. Levin's lyrical gifts are present in every line and image. From “Door”: “ in the leaning/ light,/ the blood smell of rust/ in the hinges of these open doors—“. From “Eyeless Baby”: “because sighted I am blind to all/ that's invisible,/ because without eyes I imagine/ anything:/ gems, suns, whatever After reading a current poem of Levin's on Twitter I decided to check out her work, starting with In the Surgical Theater, her first book. Wow. Almost every poem is a revelation and a delight to read. Levin's lyrical gifts are present in every line and image. From “Door”: “ in the leaning/ light,/ the blood smell of rust/ in the hinges of these open doors—“. From “Eyeless Baby”: “because sighted I am blind to all/ that's invisible,/ because without eyes I imagine/ anything:/ gems, suns, whatever conducts the light.” “Eyeless Baby” alone is worth the price of the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anatoly Molotkov

    "There are so many now, perched on the headboard, opening and closing/ their wings like moths. The kidney/ is failing, and so many are arriving, alightings on the blanket, the pillow..." Disturbingly vivid, rooted as much in anatomy as in the paradoxical philosophies of existence, Dana Levin's 1999 collection has the feel of a dark fairy tale that cracks the body to see what's inside. "There are so many now, perched on the headboard, opening and closing/ their wings like moths. The kidney/ is failing, and so many are arriving, alightings on the blanket, the pillow..." Disturbingly vivid, rooted as much in anatomy as in the paradoxical philosophies of existence, Dana Levin's 1999 collection has the feel of a dark fairy tale that cracks the body to see what's inside.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carly Miller

    These poems shocked me with their bluntness, then pulled me through with their lyric. There are a few, particularly toward the end, that I will be rereading for a while.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The writing was beautiful. This collection, however, just was not for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joli Hamilton

    This book of poems is a soul making process. I read it once and then again, especially the first section. Brilliant, exquisite pain of life captured on pages.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Gritty, exciting, not for the faint hearted.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Dublin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gerry McFarland

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex Worthy

  16. 4 out of 5

    Theadora

  17. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tara

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine Delea

  21. 4 out of 5

    C

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara Lamers Messink

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin Hollowell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ching-In

  27. 5 out of 5

    KDP

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara Krassin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lissa Bee

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jluria Longman

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