Wilson, Levine read poetry


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For poet Emily Wilson, keeping a poetry journal in third grade started her love for rhythmic language.

“I always liked to play around with words at a young age,” she said. “When I continued to write, it became a private thing for me to do to express myself.”

Years later, she realized she wanted to get serious about her writing and enrolled in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

While engaged in her studies, she met then-Professor Mark Levine through a mutual friend.

The two have worked together in the Writers’ Workshop since 2002, so when they got a chance to read together, they jumped at the opportunity. Wilson and Levine will read at 8 p.m. today at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Admission is free, and the reading will be streamed online.

James Galvin, a close friend and Workshop colleague of Wilson and Levine, is passionate about their poetry.

“One of the things I like best about [Levine’s] and [Wilson’s] work is a palpable understanding that they share,” Galvin said.

Wilson and Levine will read some poems that have not yet been published. Wilson’s poems focus on questions dealing with nature and the relationship that we have with the natural world. She will also share excerpts from her recently published collection, Micrographia.

“I drew inspiration from memories and initial experiences for my book,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ve just seen or dived into things. It’s not always the same process, but I do try to anchor myself with a memory or something I can describe.”

Unlike his colleague, Levine finds it difficult to talk about his writing. He does think there are certain types of themes, interests, and obsessions that occur in his work, but he is better talking about and analyzing other poets.

“In a general way, I am always interested in the place where a historical and cultural convergence occur and where dead people impinge on the present,” he said. “It’s a crossing of boundaries internally and historically.”

He never imagined he would be able to make poetry his career, but as he kept writing and experimenting, opportunities arose that allowed him to make it his profession, such as teaching at the UI at least one semester per year since 1999.

“This is really the best place to teach,” Levine said. “If you are interested in exploring the challenges of poetry, this is the place to go. It represents an attempt to think about the future of writing and literature.”

During his time off from the Workshop, Levine writes not only poetry but also nonfiction pieces in New York. He considers writing nonfiction to be challenging and difficult, but he has never had the passion for it that he has with poetry.

“Poetry allows you to feel things more intensely with a deeper sense of reality than ordinary language,” he said. “I discovered that there was a way to tap into a language that was more substantial and richer than what I was living.”

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