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Dear Captain H.

I understand my situation and I`m trying to do my best in embracing my
unfortunate fate as it is revealed in front of me. Yes, you are going to drop me
off a desert island and I`ll live there for who knows how long. I`ve spent nights
of terror and nightmares, thinking about the wilderness, about what lies in the
shadows, about my survival or about what might be the end to my life as I know
After the first nights of panic and distress, I realized the only way I was going to
save myself is by bringing along a few poems written by Americas poet
laureate, Phillip Levine. He was not one of my favorite poets, but, judging by
the dreadful situation Im about to face, a close analysis of his poems seems to
be the most appropriate way of keeping my mind and sanity intact. I will shortly
explain what I mean by that and I truly hope I will be able to convince you to let
me bring along Phillip Levines poems.
This journey- at least, this is the way I perceive it- is a search for the truth. I
truly believe that Phillip Levine is the poet who managed to describe the
absolute truth1 in his poems; he managed to give a picture of whatever lies
behind the curtains, behind the masks. He is a poet of the unconscious self,
coming to terms with the immediate reality. And I believe that this is what I
need right now, in order to be able to accept the fact that, against all odds, Im
NOT going to sink my ship on a desert island and die. I am going to survive by
accepting the fact that I will be alone with myself and a harsh reality. And with
Phillip Levines poems, if my humble request will be granted.
In the next section of my argumentation, I will try to demonstrate the way
Phillip Levines artistry is highly significant to the way I intend to pursue the
quest Im about to embark. Take the poem The Simple Truth, which is
probably the most elusive poem, considering my current situation.
One of Levines greatest poetic skills lies in the fact that he manages to say so
many things in such common words. At a first read, nothing seems to be out of
the ordinary: Levine begins the poem by recalling a simple and ordinary
moment, when he bought potatoes for a dollar and a half from a Polish
woman. These are the kind of simple things that bring back memories, bring out
1 Staff, NPR. "New Poet Laureate Philip Levine's 'Absolute Truth'" NPR. NPR, 14 Aug. 2011. Web.
10 June 2012. <>.

thoughts about the world and help creating a personal philosophy about life,
reality and the past. Levine uses the potatoes and the Polish woman as a means
of inviting the reader to introspection:
"Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
Some things you know all your life.

This is the almost mystical moment when the poet realizes that there are certain
things that he has been aware of his entire life; its just that some things have
never been shaped into an articulate form. This first-hand experience becomes
the real subject of the poem, addressing the poets primary responsibility to
innate knowledge, namely, to forgo elegance, meter and rhyme when
speaking of those things so simple and true. The mystery in this poem lies,
however, not in the nature of truth, but in the reasons for which this awareness
about the simple truth leads to suicide and betrayal. Levine confesses his and
Henri's betrayal of their love, along with Henri's suicidal downward spiral, as a
seemingly direct consequence of his awareness of the truth's need for simple
and inelegant form. "My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965 /
before I went away, before he began to kill himself, / and the two of us to betray
our love." Levine leads his reader to assume from these tragic consequences of
arriving at the simple truth, that it, whatever "it" is, is both revelatory and
In the next few lines, Levine strikes the reader with another simple truth about
truth: the fact that there are certain things which were left unsaid, because the
time was always wrong. Levine succeeds in using the metaphor of potatoes in
a circular way, going from the blessing of finding the simple truth to the curse
of not being able to utter the simple truth:
Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.

In conclusion, the taste of truth might be very sour if it is not uttered at the right
time. Human beings need to face the things they have known all their lives,
otherwise, it will eat on the inner self until theres nothing else left, but a
general state of inertia, some sort of existence devoid of actual living, thrills,
sensations or perceptions.
I truly hope you have carefully considered my request and that I have managed
to draw you an accurate picture of the reasons I need to have Philip Levines
poems with me on my quest where I need to find those simple truths in my life
by reading and analyzing Phillip Levines poems, because, like he said in an
interview: "That's what I am trying to capture," he says, "the absolute truth, not
the accidental truth."

Best wishes,
A lost offspring in search of