Mr. Levine was among those poets, and there are not enough of these, whose words you followed even outside their poetry. His interviews, for example, were feasts for the mind. To get back to Della and Tatum, Sweet Pea and Packy, and Ida and Cal for a moment, here is what he told The Paris Review in 1988 about the unpeopling of American poetry:
“Except for the speaker, no one is there. There’s a lot of snow, a moose walks across the field, the trees darken, the sun begins to set, and a window opens. Maybe from a great distance you can see an old woman in a dark shawl carrying an unrecognizable bundle into the gathering gloom.”
When people do appear in poems, Mr. Levine added: “Their greatest terror is that they’ll become like their parents and maybe do something dreadful, like furnish the house in knotty pine.” This man was a thoroughbred moral comedian.