John Levett

John Levett the 1982 recipient of the New Statesman’s Prudence Farmer Award, has published a collection of verse entitled Changing Sides.

Poem: ‘Magnesium’

John Levett, 4 July 1996

It might as well be gaslight now That soughs and pouches through the trees, Lost pockets of foxed sepia, The silver, pollen-haunted sneeze Of sunshine and magnesium Caught in the filter of her veil, Uplifted faces drained and dumb, Each smile a failing chemical That hovers in the nitrate’s mist Where moth-like cousins, lunar aunts In gauze and satin gloves persist Through acid-eaten...

Poem: ‘Singeing’

John Levett, 17 August 1989

The barber’s tubes and rubber bulbs, their wheezing scents, asthmatic talcs, have long since perished with the rest of his tribal paraphernalia; the Brylcreams set in misty jars and the almost medieval singeing straws, wax tapers with their red-hot buds that, smoking, sealed the ends of hairs and left the neck an acrid stem, smart meat, a stook of tendons. They don’t go in for...

Poem: ‘Steam’

John Levett, 22 May 1986

Tipped up inside the gleaming room Her wet hair streamed into the sink, Warm water shed its snorkeled bloom Onto her raw, responsive nape; Dead lathers left her in the pink, The bubbles made their charmed escape.

The whole scene was detachable. Oatmeal and lemon, white and green, The towel fluffed on the cork-topped stool, The burst sachet, the malformed tube, The three sides of wet polythene...

Poem: ‘Am’

John Levett, 20 March 1986

The slightest words define the most. Am, for instance, filling up a life, Expressing, if expression is compelled, The body’s territorial extent; Assertion’s power to concentrate A colony of egos in Their dusty settlements of skin. Denials, deprecations, steppings down, Apologies like mornings, wry with mist, Assumptions of uniqueness, leaky dawns, Fluorescent, repetitious...

Three Poems

John Levett, 6 June 1985


Day breaks and the night steams North, Its pitch-dark barges heading for Cape Rigor and the Land of Truth, Perfection’s speculative glare; The seas ice over and preserve Their endlessly refractive coast, An empty and eternal curve, Light packed against the polar frost.

These August nights are nothing more Than souped-up evenings, sweat-soaked sheets, Or coming to on...

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