Bacchus And The Drinker
New And Selected Poems Inspired By Art
The composer Lukas Foss said in an interview that all art, even the most original, is influenced by the art that preceded it. He compared artists to the anonymous stone masons who built the European cathedrals, all working on one vast edifice called Art.
In the spirit of Foss’ idea, Jim Levy has written a book of poems that are in response to some work of art, whether it be another poem, a painting, a piece of music, or a myth. After each poem, he has added some notes on the artist or art that inspired his poem. Most of his poems are original but some, following Pound and Lowell, are adaptations of poems by others. Still others are “in the manner of” such poets as Hölderlin, Vallejo, Bishop, Rilke and Mandelstam. Some use the lyrics of pop music, just as Li Po and Tu Fu used the music of the taverns of their day. To quote Vasily Zhukovsky, Russian translator of Virgil, Goethe, and Byron, “Almost everything of mine is someone else’s or about someone else, and yet it is all my very own.”
Bacchus and the Drinker is a book of many voices, Levy’s own blended with those of Monet and Fats Domino, Goya and Fellini, Linda Ronstadt and Ariadne. With recurring images of waves, winds, sea and shipwreck, it is a book that asks questions about what precedes birth, what follows death, and the meaning of what happens in between.