Day 2: Substituting Snacks for Metaphors in Levine's "The Simple Truth"
Today’s poem combines two comforting objects — straightforward language and food. Sometime last year, a poetry instructor began the quarter by letting us ingest this work by Philip Levine.
After reading and re-reading, I understand why my instructor chose this as an introductory poem. Each word is simple. It uses vocabulary of an ordinary, everyday life. It borrows generously from my childhood’s inventory — boiled and salted potatoes, the mountains in the distance, kind and matronly figures. This poem is rich with images and tastes from humble lives, which I recognize from my own humble life. I remember the first time I read the poem’s shift, which takes place between the first and second stanza. I have always loved the line, “…Some things/you know all your life” (Lines 18-19). My dwelling in poetry is based on this idea. Within the lines of a verse, you will revisit some truth that is as substantial as the salt on the table and the butter in the refrigerator. One great misconception about poetry is that it only exists in iambic pentameter, difficult language, impossible metaphors and rhythms. This poem shows that poetry belongs to food, to the death of simple men, to the sweet urging of old women. Feast on it.