Melih Levi ’15 was a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature at Stanford when he heard that poet Daniel Hall was retiring as Amherst’s writer-in-residence and director of creative writing. Levi, then an editor of Stanford’s poetry magazine, Mantis, set out to honor Hall on its pages. The result is a special section, published in spring 2020, featuring new work by 23 Amherst alumni.
“I was a student in Amherst’s English department at a time of transition,” Levi writes in the introduction, offering context about Amherst for his readership: “the so-called ‘old guard’ was on its way out, as eight professors trained in ‘close reading’ and the ‘canon’ announced retirement. Depending on whom you talked to, this announcement was greeted with relief, panic, or some mixture of the two.”
Many poems in the section are about remembering the past and recreating places previously seen, inhabited, passed through or visited.”
He continued: “Many poems in the section are about remembering the past and recreating places previously seen, inhabited, passed through, or visited. They give us a chance to think about how poetry recreates time and space, and as a result, they bring visibility to that which was too obvious, too repressed, or too marginalized to warrant acknowledgment.”
Hall arrived at Amherst in 2000 and directed the creative writing program from 2003 to 2018. (His successor is poet Shayla Lawson, whose book of essays is reviewed on page 40 of this issue of Amherst.)
Levi is now back home in Istanbul, where he is in his first year as an assistant professor at Boğaziçi University. Amherst magazine asked him to choose three works from the special section to reproduce here. All are by emerging poets and are published with permission.
Illustration by Elisabetta Bianchi