grand canyon older than thought poems and prose poems by suzanne levine

picture of suzanne levine
Photo by Lary Bloom  

Suzanne Levine’s Grand Canyon Older Than Thought is a sprightly excursion through life's foibles and joys, the dark and light of the world in which the author lives with extraordinary verve, insight, and exuberance. About the book, Gray Jacobik has said, 'Suzanne Levine’s Grand Canyon Older Than Thought presents a world that’s richly various, wry, witty, lushly drawn, delightful. We travel, cavort and caper, dream and scheme along with a speaker who’s in love with life and considers whatever appears, whether standard fare or charmingly oddball, worthy of attention closely paid. Here are seasons and weathers, people and creatures, personal and social history, tradition, and happenstance wrapped in eloquence from phoneme to story. When Levine describes a group of motorcyclists pulling into a bar as 'a galactic pack of lone rangers, each rider atop his own cosmos . . .' we see in action an imagination that enlarges our vision. She plays with language boldly: its layers of meanings, possible structures, usual conventions. That makes reading this collection a true pleasure, but it’s Levine’s ever-widening gyre of scope, of capaciousness, that makes the collection most striking and luminous.” And this from Jim Finnegan: “It’s said that we live by our wits. Or perhaps, better said: By wit we can live. In any case, Suzanne Levine’s poems and prose poetry never lack wit. Wit allows her to navigate the complications and fraught passages of life. She understands that prose is just one more resource for the poet to employ.  Her collection balances the serious and the heartfelt with the jaunty and the humorous. One of the pleasures of any book is getting to know the author. Suzanne Levine is good company.” Amy Bloom writes, “Suzanne Levine’s new collection is wry. Moving. Surprising. A little autumnal (in a Parisian way). Like Szymborska, Levine is a poet of consciousness, loving the world while seeing every dark and light inch of it. You can peer in Grand Canyon for a long time and be glad of it."
  grand canyon older than thought cover image
  Everett Warner, The Village Church, courtesy of Florence Griswold Museum

Suzanne Levine’s work has been published in many literary journals including Drunken Boat, Bellingham Review, Permafrost, Quiddity International Literary Journal, New Delta Review, Front Range, and in Stand Magazine in the UK. Suzanne holds an MFA from Vermont College and is co-founder with her husband Lary Bloom of Writing at the Mark Twain House, and Praiano Writers in Italy. She lives in New Haven, CT. You can visit her at

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ISBN 978-1-943826-15-5

Copyright © 2016 by Suzanne Levine

5.5" x 8.5" paperback, 84 pages

This book can be ordered from all bookstores, including Amazon.



Copyright © 2016 by Suzanne Levine

The Artist in Repose

Because my husband is writing a biography of Sol LeWitt I’ve often thought back to the few times the artist and his wife came for dinner. He liked to sit in the overstuffed armchair and put his feet up on the similarly fat ottoman. The furniture was well made and had belonged to my parents when they first got married. I’d re-covered the torn crimson and gold upholstery in a white duck cloth I never thought I could keep white but wanted anyway. Sol liked his Italian reds as did the rest of us and we served it in globe glasses. He wasn’t the chattiest guest but he knew how to fold into that chair and sip the Barolo. We knew this because contentment came across his face in a sweet smile, the curve of a parenthesis on its back. After they left I sprayed the wine-stained circles with Oxy-Clean, never once thinking they were conceptual art.

A Writer’s Schedule

I get out of bed at the crack of 8:30. I wake up a lot earlier but trope and the punctuality of a word need close attention. I separate the whites from the darks in the basement laundry room and the first load begins to slosh. Breakfast is something like oatmeal with fruit and yogurt, a cup of coffee, and then I read the Times or whatever else might be on the kitchen table while red peppers roast on the gas range for lunch or something else bubbles into another meal. Check emails and fb until the first load needs more separating like the clothes that can’t go into the dryer and need to be hung. The ones I call hand-washed. Load next load wondering, is Lydia Davis this methodical before running back upstairs to jot down more irony or W. C. Williams between patients with a stethoscope around his neck? I type a few lines on the computer when my husband shows up with a bushel of tomato seconds, those with slight decay or deformity, and because I think I want to make a lasagna for Sunday supper, I get a sauce started so that it can cook for the next three hours when we have to leave for an appointment to schedule a teaching job. I’m thirsty and drink leftover beet soup straight from the mason jar. The poem races across the screen. I’m onto something but I need to get lunch ready, fold the clothes and get to the appointment on time. Also I haven’t washed a dish from breakfast. Yes, he helps but he helps his way. Over lunch he reads what I wrote in the morning, slim as it is, and makes some suggestions I’ll mull over later. Dishes go in the sink because I want to spend the last few minutes before leaving to get this into some kind of shape, to at least get it on paper so I can carry it with me. We arrange to lead two eight-week writing classes for next spring and fall, stop for an ice cream on the way home, and sit outside where the charity of September isn’t lost on us. Like all writers, we’re stealthy observers. I begin to wonder if the two seventh or eighth grade girls on another bench might have changed their clothes in the middle school bathroom before coming here because, besides the smoky eyes and kewpie-doll lip gloss, I don’t think their mothers would approve of the cutoffs or cropped tee shirts, or the chandelier earrings grazing their bony shoulders. A cell phone rings and the large-breasted girl talks with her mom. The heavily mascaraed eyes roll wearily at her friend, whose face begins to tell the story. On the way home I read over my draft with its soup smudge at the edge. I know the dishes will pile up, that I’ll stay in sweatpants and favorite moth-eaten sweater and write as always, in the midst of intrusions that become my poetry.


April’s hard heart is unwilling to let go
its grip on the tight-fisted buds or coax
me out of my pullover studded with wood
splinters and smoky from fireplace embers.

Dead tired of winter, I open a window and
sweep the fusty air up to lintels and beyond.
A fisher cat, mottled with mange and a busted
hind leg, slinks through the moldy leaves. Though

she looks beaten and mauled, we share the same
cold bitch and fall like cards into chapped
hands dealing days out, one day at a time.

Nightmare on West Main

Sleep doesn’t come, whether I damn it to hell
or count backwards till dawn, but whole poems,
all worthy of prizes, flash across my eyeballs. One
thousand stanzas sucker-punch me in perfect meter,

while flea-bitten words like occam’s razor and other
worldly words in languages on scrolls stolen from
earthenware buried somewhere near Cairo knock me
for a loop. Reader, this is so big my legs start

shuffling line endings. My right hand conducts
a slant rhyme competition to such a pitch I develop
a shoulder tic. Off beat and exhausted, I succumb
to the spell of white seeping over the page. Hungry

and decaffeinated, I brew strong coffee and drag
the bowl of dark cherries to the desk.


At the Patty

In Golden, Colorado, a cowboy rode his pinto
into the saloon where I was asking for directions,
but at this bar in Chester our drifters ride Harleys.
Weekends they crowd booths in the back over the
banks of the Pattaconk where bamboo stalks
brush against windows and fishermen cast into
the current for catfish. Mustaches turn saucy after
sixteen oz. burgers and suckling ribs in spite of
the napkin stacks. At the bar, over a sweating beer,
the rev of engines and leather slapping turns my
head toward the fracas—a galactic pack of lone
rangers, each rider atop his own cosmos, rides in
looking to meld with the herd.

I Took the Back Stairs

at Grandma’s sometimes
two at a time on seven-
year-old legs – passed
three uncles’ apartments
to the top floor where,
about to braid challah,
she’d lift her pallid arms
for me to run headlong
into her apron, a broad
expanse of faded checks
sticky with flour and egg.
Cinnamon toast and glasses
of weak tea were on the table
where I sat watching her
plait the dough as though
she had done this every
morning before sending
the daughter she never
had off to school. Decades
later on a group tour to Tel
Aviv, an Uncle Al or Aunt
Ruthie look-alike drink tea
on Dizengoff Street and
challenge me to remember her,
left behind, my father’s
ticket to a new life, one without
sacred arks and bimahs. But
I can’t until I climb
the stairs one Friday for
my first Shabbat dinner
and fall into the open arms
of strangers I’ve somehow
known all my life.