The Mer­cy: Poems

Philip Levine
  • From the Publisher
March 31, 2016

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.

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