I read Arne Weingart’s new book of poetry in the bathtub: PERFECTION.  Levitation for Agnostics seems meant for soaking and reflection.  None of the poems are pretentious or tiresome, and though I would describe more of them as wistful than cheerful, they all lift the spirit.  This is what the right words can do.

A quick note to Mayor Megan Barry:  this collection would be an excellent pick for Nashville’s All-City Read next year.  Weingart’s poems reach back to a 1955 trip as a schoolboy to the Nashville Museum of Natural History to see a mummy; to the carpool that took him to Walter J. Stokes Elementary; to a visit with his father to the sulfur spring north of town:

Although you had to drive through the ghetto
to get there North Nashville never seemed
like anyplace we shouldn’t be

Skinny little jewboy and his short foreign
father on Sunday morning early…

Not all of the poems are situated in Nashville, but quite a few of them season the collection and make it of particular interest to Nashville readers.

The last collection I enjoyed as much was Aimless Love, by Billy Collins.  Levitation for Agnostics, like Aimless Love, is a book of poetry for the novel-readers as well as the poets among us.  Poet Tony Hoagland describes it as “delightful, wry and human, with a great ear for language and wit, sympathetic yet detached with a truly wide-ranging mercy.”  (Yes, that.)

Levitation for Agnostics won the 2014 New American Poetry Prize, and Weingart will come to Parnassus on Monday, February 22nd at 6:30, for a reading.  I hope to see you there!

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With the author’s permission, I will run a poem a day for the next three days, in advance of his reading.  Today’s poem is “Susan Smith’s Mother”:  


Susan Smith’s Mother

Had the second grade car pool
every other day my mother having
recently learned to drive and wanting
to be completely useful and American

made the arrangements somehow
what did car pool sound like in a Polish
Yiddish accent to Susan Smith’s mother
Susan Smith was the blondest girl

I ever knew white hair white eyebrows
white eyelashes little white hairs on
the back of her skinny Christian
neck my eye watered whenever

I stared straight at her like they were
afraid she would catch fire their
car was nothing like ours a dark
green Dodge with manual everything

Susan Smith’s mother drove
a two-tone Ford with buttons that
did things and chrome everywhere
you could think to put it Walter J.

Stokes Elementary School was less than
two miles from my house and Susan
Smith’s mother was extremely happy to
see us she hummed a song I didn’t know

and then also extremely
happy to have made the turn from
Woodmont Boulevard onto Lealand Lane
she took her hands off the wheel and

clapped three times so happy she turned
around and looked at Susan Smith and me
and did it all over again and turned back
around and smiled and I was home

I told my mother about Susan Smith and
Susan Smith’s mother and how happy we
all were and what kind of tricks she could
do and that was the last car pool I ever rode in


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haxton_re-048For more about Arne Weingart, check out his own site and a prior Bacon post written when he came to town for the Southern Festival of Books.

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