The poems in The Off-Season are populated with things—‘90s TV shows, mix-tapes, crosstown buses, winter
beaches—signifiers that trace a trajectory from girlhood to adulthood and bring to the surface feelings and
desires that ordinarily stay hidden. We witness the strangeness of modern life, relive our own adolescent
awkwardness and listen in on conversations with dead poets, TV characters, family members and intimates.
With humor, fierceness and generosity, The Off-Season grapples with the question of how to be in the world.
from “Sometimes, Gender,” from The Off-Season:
…I wanted to be popular, then smart, then someone’s
favorite, instead got a laptop & back-page
editorial in the yearbook. I wrote Action
is impractical if the war is faceless.
I had a crush on every girl who smoked
in the gymnasium basement. At night
every star looked like a pearl, but close up
each one was faithless, close up my body
ruthless. I cried when my best friend
got a real boyfriend, the water polo captain.
Sex was temporary, tenuous. Our tenth-
grade history teacher—we called him Heath—
was born Heather. We didn’t know
until later. Imperceptible the difference
between phenotype & Photoshop, pronouns
& antecedents, my body, its fixed uses.
“Can a poem be gentle and fierce at the same time? Can a poem make you smile because it’s so heartbreaking and cry because it’s so sharp? Can it be bracingly particular and achingly universal? In The Off-Season, Jen Levitt says yes, and her yes sounds like no one else’s. She knows that to live is to be an anachronism, she knows how to talk back to her heroines, poetic and otherwise, and she knows that identity is an ‘imperfect system.’ Anyone who has ever struggled to come of age, as an artist, as a human, will find themselves in this book.” — Kathleen Ossip
“Jen Levitt’s first collection is witty, vulnerable, and fiercely observant. She is the odd love child of Frank O’Hara and Elizabeth Bishop with a charm and intelligence all her own. Conversational and intimate in its details, The Off-Season radiates sincerity, and Levitt’s voice—bold, humble, questioning, quirky—is captivating.” — Rachel Zucker
“In Jen Levitt’s wonderful debut, The Off-Season, the objects of the everyday become luminous guides to a deepening understanding of the self. These are poems of identity that are also about the inadequacy of such an idea. The body practices layups, the body is ‘soaked & amplified/with newness,’ the body wants what it wants and sometimes even gets it. And then what? This is a book for this moment in that this moment keeps happening again and again. Which makes it timeless and utterly necessary.” — Gabrielle Calvocoressi