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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

on Gabriel Levin
‘While changing it rests’1
Gabriel Levin’s Coming Forth By Day
Peter Vernon
IN PN REVIEW 243 I analysed the title poem of Gabriel Levin’s Coming Forth by Day; here I concentrate on the final sequence: ‘The Orphic Egg’ where modern/ post-modern concerns with high culture, self-reflexive media, the transitions, the impermanence of the contemporary world where everything is ‘in motion’, are brought into focus and given heightened tension. Levin here presents a vision of the power and significance of art; a vision that is expressed in the triple repetition of ‘I thought I heard’ which in the end becomes transformed into ‘I thought I saw’. The power of the poem is found in the ekphrasis it creates from the music: ‘but it all levels / out, down- and upbeat, in the pantonic hap’; or ‘strive/ fall back, fuse, dissolve, good riddance to the dross’. These hammer-blows of spondees mimic Alexander Goehr’s music, which inspired the poems. These are a series of five interlocking rondeaux, where the opening phrase of each poem operates as a burden or refrain, repeated as a half-line at lines 9 and 15, which, since there is no end stop to the stanza, then lead into the opening of the next rondeau. Thus, the first line of stanza 1 reads: ‘Ever in motion, rest assured, […]’, the opening phrase ‘Ever in motion’ becomes line 9, and is repeated at the end of the stanza at line 15 which thus introduces line 1 of the next rondeau: ‘won’t you tell us the score’. Such a repetitive structure, like a theme and variations, is taken from music as the name ‘rondeau’ suggests, and the form is ...


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