On reading Judy Katz-Levine’s "The Everything Saint"

Concision in poetry is probably its most difficult quality: the ability to say more in less. To preserve the transformational oeuvre of poetry with straight-forward everyday language is as tricky as hitting that perfect descriptive mark but without pretense, which is what Judy Katz-Levine does in The Everything Saint (Word Poetry, 2018). The book has the quality of an intimate journal in which the author is describing events of her life to herself, mostly memories and feelings with a wise and wistful gentleness that invites us in the little puzzles that keep her going.

In the poem “With A Shout” (p47), the first and second line show the power of the poet’s transformative talents:


“We are receiving faces of snow.
Then the happiness we feel engenders the most infinite face…”


Taken too literally, the sentences make no sense, but those “faces” seen as vast expanses of snow, transform an ordinary snowy landscape into molds and mounds, shapes that become a reflection of selves. The poem continues:


“… All along
we run and limp and run again.
Then the fingers open like birds of paradise—”


The poet here is playing with the impression of snow, bringing us back to our senses, the cold felt through an open palm. The image works all for the better that it is unlikely. And then she finishes with sentences that are more like photographs than phrases, concretizing the poem into a memorable event:


“a saxophone shouts
and clapping and singing provide
alternate highways.”


The entire book is crafted by such impressions. In the poem “Springing of You” (p49), the opening line followed by the first line, create an anaphora that, not only makes the humor of the title reverberate, but also transforms a thought into fresh air:


“Springing of You
The springing of you is likely to produce in me a line of
thought which doesn’t dissipate but roves over dandelion
weeds and early spearmint blossoms.”


Or in the poem “Spring Text Flower” (p100), how the poet transforms a casual lonely night into a poetic and pleasantly sensual lesson:


“Night sweeps down a soulful eye
there came a teaching from the wind
my fingers tremble as grass.”


I loved reading the book. It’s great sensible poetry and I look forward to reading more from the author.



Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, December 3, 2018 - 23:17