Edward Hirsch: On "They Feed They Lion"

[Levine is] capable of thorny affirmations, celebrating his own "angels of Detroit." The magisterial title poem is Levine's hymn communal rage. It fuses a host of influences into a daring and brilliant new whole. One hears behind it the driving rhythms of the biblical prophets, the anaphora of Christopher Smart's "Jubilate Agno" and Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," the wildly inventive, mixed diction of Dylan Thomas and John Berryman, the splendid verbal twists and turns of colloquial black speech. The poem inventively uses the word "Lion" as both noun (as in "the Lion") and verb (as in "to Lion"). The word "They" becomes both subject (as in "They Feed") and possessive pronoun (as in "They" or their "Lion"). This gives the poem a sinuous syntactical energy and ambiguity. Altogether it has a sweeping musical and rhetorical authority, a burning sense of "the adds of rage, the candors of tar," a psychological understanding of what motivates people to move from "Bow Down" to "Rise Up," and it builds to an apocalyptic conclusion.

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Title Edward Hirsch: On "They Feed They Lion" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Jay Parini Criticism Target Philip Levine
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 08 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Columbia History of American Poetry
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