Annal: 1998 Walt Whitman Award

Results of the Walt Whitman Award in the year 1998.

Book:Once I Gazed at You in Wonder

Once I Gazed at You in Wonder: Poems

Jan Heller Levi

Alice Fulton, the judge for the 1998 Walt Whitman Award, calls Once I Gazed at You in Wonder “quite simply, the most endearing book I’ve read in some time.” Readers of this audacious and, yes, endearing collection will agree. Jan Heller Levi has said that her poems are not confessions but conversations. Here, then, are her conversations with the world. What sets Levi apart, however, is that she lets the world answer back. Difficult fathers, ineffectual mothers are forgiven; ex-lovers are blessed. Sophisticated but never jaded, this poet looks in wonder beyond the self: a cup of coffee in one of New York’s ubiquitous Greek diners can launch Levi into a meditation on truth versus compassion; a suite of elegies for her mother takes us from a hospital corridor to the studio of a television talk show where God is the guest; a poetry reading in which she shares the stage with a folk singer illustrates Levi’s gift for illuminating the absurd textures of late-twentieth-century existence. …[more]

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