Gabriel Levin’s fourth collection moves from the Mediterranean world that has engaged his imagination for the last thirty years, to the sombre title sequence written in the shadow of Israel’s bombardment and incursion into Gaza in 2008. These striking poems and their prose commentary (‘The Fathers are Watching’) navigate between the depredations of war and the mind’s need to disengage itself from its surrundings. The atonal, dissonant, radical music of the moderns – Webern, Messiaen, Bartók, Ligeti, Feldman – provides the emotive power, the retreat, and the solace from which to speak privately of the public arena of warfare.
The final section of this articulate and compassionate book is a fifteen-sonnet cycle dispatched from the shores of an unnamed island, which could be everyman's abode, in search of what might lie yonder.
‘Coleridge believed that language is the vehicle through which divinity passes into humanity and that poets are the true guardians of it. In Levin one could not wish for a more passionate and imaginative guardian.’
– Sonja Besford, Ambit
‘Levin’s] synoptic vision of the two great Semitic traditions, the Jewish and the Arab, running concurrently, is also a political act of the subtlest and most humane kind.’
–Stephen Romer, Times Literary Supplement
The Weighing of Souls
What of the anonymous faces poking
out of the antique masonry? Gislebertus made
this – carved heads with broad, shapeless snouts,
grimacing from their chinks and sooty
vaults. Why is it, with their bulging brows
and sunken, bandito eyes, their huge,
gaping mouths and devilish looks
(last night, muting the newscast,
I read in Imago Hominis such masks
were the face of evil) why then is it they evoke,
the evident … no, the risibly human?
However twisted their features, we trip over
our own shadows in the dissembler,
the suicide and the buffoon, the bold warrior
and the sinner on the pan of the scales.