Levine continues:

By the time I was twenty-one years old I’d begun to think of myself as something of an accomplished poet; what I lacked — among other things — was a recognizable, consistent voice for my poems. For the most part, American poets make this search for a voice automatically — it’s part of our native Yankee gift for marketing, this straining after a voice that will make one’s poetry sound utterly unlike the work of other poets and hence a unique commodity. It is something like the equivalent — to cite another Detroit effort in the same direction — of adding gigantic tail fins to our cars to make them distinctive. And like the tail fins, it’s a mistake. When I read my work loudly enough to myself, it was clear it wasn’t prose; that it was not poetry was clear to most everyone else. Fortunately, the voice of my poems was in a constant state of change. Years later I realized that developing a voice before you knew what you needed to say was pointless at best, self-defeating at worst. You could spend years trying to sound as lyrical as Edna St. Vincent Millay or Hart Crane only to discover you wanted to write poetry incendiary enough to burn down General Motors or the Pentagon.

More… “Voice Is Vision”

Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.


Literary critics and regular readers often have things to say about a writer’s voice. Many think that the most-read writers are those whose voice is so clear that it can be singled out from all the other authorial voices. Hemingway, with his hard-edged nouns and verbs, is often said to have a powerful voice. Katherine Anne Porter’s authorial voice might be described as precise, incisive, and aware. Joy Williams’s voice is somewhat quirky, but — as we say — in a serious way. Peter Balakian’s voice is strong and exhilarating. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s voice carries a certain wistfulness and a sense of regret. Thomas Hardy’s novels project compassion and sorrow; yes, a sorrowful voice. Jane Austen’s voice is crisp and witty. The voice of George Eliot, née Mary Anne Evans, the author of Middlemarch, often said to be the most intelligent book ever written, is psychologically acute and hard-nosed and definitive. More… “Voice Is Vision”

Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.


One lure of taking photographs is that you get to hide behind a machine and safely observe the world. You get to look, without being seen. This was especially true in the early days of photography when photographic equipment was bulky and when exposing the film or plate required a dark area at the back of the camera. The dark area was created with a black hood. The experience of taking a picture meant getting under that black hood and entering another world from which you could watch the real world outside. The pleasure of it must have been like being in a pillow fort as a child. You are in a safe and hidden space, but you get to peer out through the cracks between the pillows in order to see what all the adults are doing.

Here in the crowded retina clinic, we’re waiting to have pictures taken of our macula with marvelous cameras, the backs of our eyes are about to be zapped with lasers or, like me, our central retinal veins have occluded — fancy term for a blood clot — and the retinas have swollen. The result is blurred and distorted vision. Luckily, only my right eye is afflicted.

I’ve already read the chart — could barely make out the large E at the top — and have had dilating drops put into my eyes, so now I’m waiting for my pupils to become pie tins, big enough for someone to look all the way into my soul.

Albert DiBartolomeo is the author of two novels, several short stories, numerous commentaries for the Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications, and has written for Readers Digest,… More…

At a time when the average person would sooner donate money to a relief fund for investment bankers than pay full retail price for a CD, millions of Americans happily spend hundreds of dollars on a single pair of eyeglasses. A pair of Tiffany & Co. frames at LensCrafters retails for $410, lenses not included. Bottega Veneta 95s can set you back anywhere from $699 to $1,499, depending on where you shop.


On the one hand, paying so much for stylish eyewear doesn’t seem completely irrational. You might spend $699 for a suit or a really nice pair of boots you’ll only wear once or twice a week, so what’s outlandish about investing a similar amount in a product you wear every day, right on the middle of your face? Especially when… More…

“A place for everything, and everything in its place” could be the perfect homemaker’s rule to live by. The maxim’s perfect, but I’m not, even though I won’t buy anything now unless I know where I can put it. I’ve abandoned all aspects of recreational shopping. And that policy includes a can of sardines.  As long as nobody gives me anything, I’m just fine. Except for the mail. And keeping track of my eyeglasses.


Like many people in their 60s, I need to wear glasses when I read or work on the computer. When I was a teenager, I discovered that I was nearsighted. For some few moments that I don’t remember, I must have had perfect vision as it flipped from my being able to read close up to being able to see clearly, unaided, only at… More…


When the pediatrician diagnosed both of my two sons with color deficiency, I learned that they see the world a little differently than I do. They see colors, but they have difficulty differentiating between particular shades of reds and greens or blues and yellows. I’m not even sure which. If they had total color deficiency — color blindness — I would have worried, but as it was, we laughed about their little vision condition. It did not seem like any big loss that their career options might be slightly limited, given the wide realm of possibilities.

So when I first read the news last week that scientists had cured spider monkeys of red-green color deficiency, I thought it was a pretty minor stuff. Big deal, so monkeys can now see more colors than my kids! But… More…