If I Die Before You Wake


Steve Lewis’s If I Die Before You Wake starts with the terror of realizing one will die and ends in gratitude and the realization “it never stops until you’ve had enough.” Lewis’s poems are filled with love including child-love, wife-love, friend-love, life-love, and love of place. Lewis knows and uses the power of names: Pamlico Sound, Barrier Island, Rodanthe. These are atmospheric poems, where there are “willets skittering at the edge of the surf,” and “dunes are hurricane-flattened.” Lewis creates still lifes with empty beach chairs, surf boards, water jugs, and towels covered with sand. Life-like, these poems braid beauty, love and loss: the death of parents, friends, and students. Throughout the book, Lewis’s poems spark with with energetic sounds, meaning-drenched imagery, and Gertrude Stein-like repetitions that trance, pleasure, and give meaning-- “all the way home all the way home and all the way home/ all the snowy way home for all that snowy way home until I am all/ the way home.”

                                                                        Susan Firer, The Transit of Venus


In If I Die Before You Wake: Meditations and Intimations On Mortality, Steve Lewis writes with compassion and searing honesty about the inevitable movement through life and to death. This a tender, bittersweet song to family, to all the people that we love and lose, to the people who will remain behind after we die. It follows a spiritual journey in search of meaning and is imbued with the hope that these poems will speak for him when he can no longer speak for himself. What a powerful moving book this is!

                                                                        Maria Gillan, What Blooms in Winter


In this thoughtful collection, Steve Lewis handles death—from the killing of a yard snake to the passing of close friends—with passion, grace, and, at times, humor. He puts it in perspective as a part of life, although he sometimes rails against that morbid reality, too. I came away from this meditation on death with a deeper appreciation for the tenuous gift of life.


Lawrence Kessenich, Cinnamon Girl


Steven Lewis’s new book of poems, If I Die Before You Wake, offers a legacy of narratives, often lyrical, that celebrate moments in time, the landmarks of multiple generations. Here is the hard-won wisdom of mentor, father, grandfather, and husband that engages place, environment, and all-too-human relationships in equal measure with the human heart.  But the specter of our universal ending resides in witness within most of these poems as “some common/sadness” always in the background, for the poet “a talisman of where he’s going”—indeed, where we’re all going.  Yehuda Amichai once said “every poem is a lament,” and that couldn’t be a better blurb for this book.  A thoughtful, moving, and warm read, indeed.

                                                                        Gregg Weatherby, Approaching Home