JUST THE BEGINNING:
NOTES & CONSIDERATIONS ON D.A. LEVY
FOR BIG BRIDGE
by Joel Lipman
I was introduced to d.a.levy's work and began reading his poems while a University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate. I suspect I first read levy around 1963 or1964, most likely Kibbutz in the Sky or an occasional piece from Cleveland that made its way by independent press distribution to Madison or existed in a samizdat facsimile edition or that appeared as a more broadly published and circulated item in the era's underground press. This was several years before levy's 1968 one-month poet-in-residence stint at Madison's Free University – a newly-organized, counter-cultural educational co-op providing opportunities for relevant instruction and meaningful classes during a time of divisive UW strikes and confrontational campus occupation. My appreciation of the breadth of levy's accomplishment and of his usefulness as a poet continues without diminishment.
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I continue to enjoy and value looking, reading, feeling and sensing the texture of levy's page and print in poems that move elliptically between musing, imploring, prophesizing, riffing, stoning, raging, anguishing and mulling. d.a.levy's poems nailed [as in "drove a spike into"] the industrial Midwest beyond his Ohio city, doing so with blows and incisions ranging from typographic stroke or scissor cut to lexical work that might be notational, enjambed and minimalist in its brevity or a sequentially expansive, chapbook-length lyric sprawl. His work articulately spoke to me as a Jewish Midwesterner of his generation. He knew and captured the urban Great Lakes' cities' particularly threatening urban concrete.
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I arrived in Madison September 1960, an eighteen-year-old in-state kid from Kenosha, Wisconsin, drinking beer, playing football, fishing the region's abundant waters, modestly progressing toward an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in English. G.I. Bill benefits resulting from my father's death covered my basic expenses and I experienced an independence in the prevailing intellectual culture of Madison which freed my mind and body, and nurtured openness to possibilities.
On State Street I loved the constant yakking and the beery noisiness at the campus bar where I worked a few nights each week. I briefly joined a fraternity and got pinned to my coed girlfriend, worked a meal job in a dorm, played pick-up basketball several times a week at the Old Red Gym, participated in civil rights rallies and then anti-war demonstrations and in the evenings occasionally went to subversive gatherings where politics and poetry co-mingled. I smoked pot with a wild-haired drummer and a beautiful nurse and picked watercress along trout streams. Majoring in English, by no means was I particularly literary in my attentions, and few poets' poems would have captured my interest as did d.a.levy's with their particular Great Lakes familiarities, street immediacy and accessible Midwestern voice.
My friends and acquaintances at the time spanned various social groups and included several nascent poets like myself, along with the slightly older Quixote editor-publisher Morris Edelson and his wife, Betsy. Morris, an English graduate student, was a Beaumont, Texas transplant and he had a printing press. He was a consistently productive, independent, small press poetry publisher and an early, devoted promoter of levy. His friendship and energy as both a small press activist and printer was the particular dynamic link between levy's work and its accessibility to me. I suspect my first levy chapbooks were Quixote offspring editions or other publications that bore the mark of Morris Edelson's ink.
Betsy Edelson and I subsequently ended up working for a few years at Chicago's Columbia College, though by this time she was Betsy Bouchard. I'd propose that there's a sensuous levy thread in a Chicago surrealist connection that includes Black Swan Press, the coterie around Barbara's Bookstore, and perhaps specifically Penelope and Franklin Rosemont, to whom levy's poem "i found it at the movies" is dedicated. I've no idea as to how superficial or substantial the connection is, nor do I have knowledge of levy actually knowing Rosemont or visiting him in Chicago. The affinities between levy's mimeo pages, broadsheets, collages and micro-books and the manifestoes and work associated with late-1960s Chicago neo-surrealism deserve examination.
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Of course, the 1960s offered distinctive and liberating opportunity for those of us fortunate enough to avoid an early death, whether one's demise occurred while driving from tavern to tavern across Wisconsin, as draftee in Vietnam, as vulnerable bussed-in volunteer in the racist counties of Mississippi or in the yawning green maw of the suburbs. Around Madison new publications constantly hit the shelves of independent and coop bookstores. Stuart Ewen, an incisive propagandist of Twentieth Century American graphic culture, in 1966 founded Madison's radical underground newspaper Connections – issues occasionally included levy's visual and textual poems. Shortly after, Milwaukee's underground paper, Kaleidoscope, began a Madison edition. It was a fertile, formative time. Paul Buhle founded Radical America in Madison during the mid-60s and early issues swept up political and graphic copy, along with collage and poetry. Lee Baxendall and numbers of other active and articulate new and old left Marxists kept the campus and fringe communities intellectually vitalized with publications, some ephemeral and others durable.
Mimeos, tabloids and ditto publications were common, their contents read and discussed in bars, coffeehouses, Student Union Ratskeller, streets and apartments. There was a plethora of independent periodical literature that swept past restrictive square cultural conventions and pleasantries. Madison's Broom Street Theater, now the country's oldest "all original" theater company, founded by Joel Gersmann, was in a formative period during the late 1960s. Broom Street's first production in the late 60s was Lysistrada, with nudity, anti-war, and explicitly sexual politics, and the ensemble performance not unlike a theatrically staged d.a.levy collage. Nationally, the Underground Press Service [UPS] provided the "movement" press with irreverent and relevant common texts, both graphic and textual. I suspect some of levy's poems were networked by UPS, as were the druggy, sassy cartoons of his fellow Clevelander Robert Crumb. Len Fulton's Dustbooks was launched in 1964 and COSMEP a couple years later. The 1960s were a heyday and period of fecund growth for the independent and small press.
When d.a.levy wrote of "Reality Now," in Suburban Monastery Death Poem: Part Four -- Forest Hills Park, cataloguing the likes of Mister Donut, Scott's Hardware, "young/colored kids in rags or the high school/greasers robbing stores so they can/dress decently," and when he lyrically pleaded for escape from the restrictions, threats and denials of "medieval Ohio," I got it, as did a great many others. levy's emphasis on "that sense of historical/perspective necessary to survive &/grow," was not unfamiliar rhetoric. His language was immediate and clear, his references concrete and accurate, and his poems were accessibly published in the context of a burgeoning youth culture and available in inexpensive booklets that resonated with unfussy simple integrity.
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Permission, proprietary ownership and copyright were decidedly secondary to usable engagement, opportunity and instantness. The mid-60s supported the sprawl and vibrancy of small and independent press publishing and all manner of basement presses – ditto, mimeo, stencil, letterpress, offset, early greasy Xerox – vitally coexisted, providing poet-publishers with ink and paper, cheap accessibility, convergent technologies and unique character. Evidence of the author's or composer's human presence was positive and desirable. Error was ok, as was inconsistency and irregularity of paper stock and page. Even for prosewriters the Movement's underground press inspired a New Journalism that replaced distance and neutrality's presumption of disinterested reportage with an actively perceiving, romantic self-centeredness.
A jumbled, congested, irregular page was a desired look. Available print technology fostered a low-production-value aesthetic based upon simplicity and necessity. Ephemeral publications emerged and were gone. Independent and underground publications sought to integrate copy and graphic content in voices and formats that barely distinguished fact from image or impression, poetry from polemic, flamingly hot sexual/political expression from a singular smudge of ink or subtle brushmark, broken type stroke or articulate Zen emptiness.
The implicit and ever-present threat of being busted or arrested for printing, promoting or distributing sexually and politically liberating texts encouraged an independent small press culture built upon bonds of love, friendship and trust. levy's publishing, writing, collage and cut-ups captured, and in some ways defined, the poetic underground. His poems, graphics and publications articulated and helped shape the era's notoriously independent print technologies and fluid underground content. His visual and lexical poetry and tabloid mimeo journalism encoded and prophesized the evolving moment.
As a poet and independent publisher, levy wrote and significantly published in two distinct contexts of production and distribution. He printed and published within intimate circles of personal friendship where he collaborated, sharing or retaining artistic and editorial control. However, when his work circulated as copy in the context of the underground press network he relinquished artistic control. The interconnectiveness and interdependency found in 60s mimeo publications makes it possible to observe, but perhaps not quite pin down, the identity of a particular press or poet/printer behind work bearing differing press names or publisher imprints. There was fluidity and overlap within levy's Cleveland small press network.
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Dispensing with stale and dishonest establishment boilerplate was a goal youth communities were committed to and d.a.levy resonated as incisive, gutsy and truthful. Though I don't recall actually seeing a copy of The Mary Jane Quarterly or The Marrahwannah Quarterly in the mid-60s, I sure wanted to get my hands on whatever I could by a guy who had the chutzpah and gutsiness to publish a dope-identified newssheet, a poet who embraced such risk. Cleveland was no Madison, where radical bohemian culture was part of the community's self-identity. But in both communities levy's work, name, and referential energy contributed to the action. Even before the watershed Dow Riots of 1967 and a campus demarked by National Guardsmen in Jeeps with mounted machine guns, there was a sort of ukanhavyrfuckinciti bak panicky edginess to that upper Midwest city's pulse.
I'll avoid grafting a Dylan album to this report, but, yes, we believed there was "revolution in the air" and levy's was one of the significantly resonant underground voices. Among my intimates, levy's poetry mattered. His independent publishing and printing was one poet's demonstration of articulate courage and vitalizing, revolutionary energy. He was an articulator who threw himself against the machine.
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levy's poems mattered then and now for a rewarding range of reasons. Not beat poems, there are some commonalities with Beat poets. His poems and arguments were not of New York or San Francisco. They were always pedestrian, not defined by the motion of the car and lure of the road. levy had a local grounding that spoke of and to the Great Lakes, a raw inland struggle of land and water with unwavering continental weather and bleak winters, a bundled-up-against-the-relentless-grind-of-the-industrial-machine, physically groaning landscape of labor and steel and assembly lines. The regional reference to the work of Kenneth Patchen has been well established by others who've noted their Ohio origins, political and verbo-visual similarities.
Less gritty than much of his poetry, levy's picture poems [among others, "Poetry is so Much garbage when its not alive," "From R to B Before the Rain/I can hear Chippewa Drums…," and "i made the mistake/of painting a thought/behind the eyes/of my first-love"] display particular poet-painter affinity to Patchen's visual poems. There was a meaningful geographical kinship in that the industrial Midwest was my home and levy wrote of it.
In levy's poetry, whether visual or lexical, the Rust Belt's imminent economic decline is forecast. The hideous politicians who dominated governments and threatened citizen freedoms in the most fundamental ways were part of his manifesto. The malaise of suburban death was obvious and the prescient, spontaneous levy had already named it.
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As a Midwestern Jew I identified with levy's religious skepticism, questing and ambivalence. I valued d.a.levy's lower cased, abbreviated name, an identity he'd created that to me suggested symbolic escape from tribe, family and convention. He was not his parents' child so much as he was his independent self. The "generation gap" label hadn't quite joined the Time-Life media-hyped vocabulary, but like many I was estranged from the America of my parents' generations' material presumptions and commitments to ownership. levy's "d.a." suggested an independent, democratic identity as a person and a poet. Somehow it seemed he'd figured out how to generate a functional press and make an impact as an independently publishing poet and publisher, and yet he had no money. It would be some years before I even knew his given name was Darryl Allan.
He'd written expansively about Cleveland and I knew of and had read some of those poems prior to his death. He had also written, in 1968, the "Madison Poems." These poems struck me with incredible immediacy – the local politicians, loudmouths and shills, place names, familiar streets, events I'd attended, laundromats, blinking neon signs I specifically recognized. These poems altered the way I saw my community. I'm sure they redirected and opened up my embryonic grasp of poetry.
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I was not romanced by levy's persona as it developed during secret testimony and public prosecution over the last phase of his life and was subsequently mythologized after his death. For my needs as a reader, he was conscious, alive and actively publishing and that was what mattered then and continues to conspicuously impact my attention to his work as a publisher and poet. Many communities had specifically suppressed, privately persecuted and publicly criminalized their outspoken. From the perspective of mainstream Americans poets were suspect citizens. To be on the margins of capital or alienated from its mass products and cultural conventions meant one magnetically invited its opprobrium. Some harsh shit came your way.
The late 1960s was not a time of kindness when authority confronted rebellion – far from it. Chicago-style fascism, whether jackboot squadron, agent provocateur or undercover narc, were operative policing and prosecutorial standards and that was just the way it was. The mystique and mythos that's evolved over the 40 years since levy's death played no part in my initial interest in his work, nor does it today. The machinery of death is everywhere. There are too many martyrs.
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I find myself reading levy today with perhaps more attention and commitment than I originally did. Pleasurably, I've gotten past personally expecting myself to validate and explain why I appreciate something or for what reasons a particular poet matters to me. As a poet employed at a public university for three decades, I show up regularly in a classroom where students desire poetry's possibilities. I generally, though not always, enjoy trying to educate others about poetry's useful application.
d.a.levy is a utilitarian, practical poet. I find in poetry a means of social-political-personal investigation – I've long admired and read Ed Sanders' investigative poems, still return to diPrima's Revolutionary Letters, continue to be amazed at the visionary integrity of Amiri Baraka and accessibly have at hand the prophetic books and picture poems of Kenneth Patchen. Considering d.a.levy's poems while writing this note led me back to Emmett Williams' anthology of concrete poetry and provided opportunity to reconsider those poems and Williams's editorship in the context of levy, to ask again why d.a.levy is not among the dozens of included writers. levy's work prompts questions. Questions prompt investigations. That levy's poems were not included by Williams or by Mary Ellen Solt or by Eugene Wildman in their so-called definitive anthologies of concrete poetry continues to strike me as a condemning flaw of each book – either the mark of careless, distorted and insufficient editorship or purposeful evidence of some sort of exclusivist literary posturing establishing a bewildering unknown.
Perhaps the literary underground that levy epitomizes is his destined status, requiring those of us who so value his work to creatively build his legacy on a subterranean foundation.
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I seek out work by poets whose compositions fluidly move between visual and lexical structures. At the university, I often teach my poetry workshops and scheduled classes physically in the studios and galleries of the Toledo Museum of Art. As a teacher I've a particular affinity for instructing in verbo-visual environments. My interests and practices as a poet include what is somewhat generically gathered under the loose categories of artist's books, mail art and visual poetry. In my studio there is no particular distinction between the necessary materials I use in these composites of poetry's practice. I enjoy poetry that manifestly explores paper, ink, print technologies, simple bindings and book structures, and results in folios and broadsides, pages, collage and work on paper. Though I find the literary politics of mid-twentieth century Concrete Poetry annoying and exclusionary, there is wonder and suggestive reach in much of the work produced by the global Concretist community of that time.
Desktop composition and publishing promotes writing where the lines between graphic and textual copy are relatively nonexistent. levy's poems emerge as pre-eminent craft models and are usefully direct in their technology and art-making. Perhaps the word "craft" is flawed terminology, but when trying to offer models demonstrating pre-computer-era approaches to language and the page, levy's strategies are exemplary. He recognized and used words as material, and understood that letters and words are objects and not necessarily the representation of objects – this is a conceptually complicated point for many canon-bound, aspiring poets and students to grasp. levy's work captures and actualizes the concept.
That levy's poems were composed by typewriter, cut-and-paste, mimeo, stencil and letterpress, helpfully limits technology's mumbo-jumbo and clarifies the human element of composing a visual page or open field poem. His poems, as well, were significantly about daily events and personal immediacies. Writing and composing them he rearranged, restructured and neologistically created concrete lexical and visual images. His poems provided perspectives on experiences that were inspired and, to me as reader and young poet, inspiring.
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levy's "destructive writing" remains a unique accomplishment in poetry for its skeptical lucidity regarding content/form, its fusion and unity as a verbo-visual text, its cerebral shapeliness and typographic suggestiveness. d.a.levy's destructive writing is so sensual I can almost taste and feel its resonant odor, bite and bleed.
Actualized on the page, the sparest of the destructive poems [compositions such as black photon, acid yantra, galactic waystation or ting smoke] are poems where preconsidered content, hand, technology and technique yield to gesture. These are not about. They are pure mark. That a poet of levy's lexical power could fluidly transfer his visionary intent to such urgent, uniquely indelible texts has always amazed and inspired me.
The persistence of levy's accomplishments stand as more remarkable when considered in the context of Ingrid Swanberg's comment in the introduction to zen concrete & etc. that levy was "...acutely aware of the irrelevance of the poet to an utilitarian culture…[that] he took this nothingness as his ground…." Perhaps d.a.levy the poet, as visceral meat, lacks relevance, but the poems as objects resound and endure. As language objects, levy's poems burn, stagger, stun, assault, vaporize and ultimately transform social complacency and, paradoxically, jettison despair.
levy's poems have durable value. They may be too textually distinctive to join the marching cadences of trade anthologies, so I am not naively promoting them as canon fodder or poetry classroom pap. I rarely attempt to convince others about what I find to be their persistent wonder and persistent wisdom, but do celebrate and, insofar as my nature allows, show and speak of them to persons exhibiting interest. Occasionally someone contacts me specifically about or because of levy's poetry and those are marvelous conversations. Occasionally someone has discovered d.a.levy and shows up at a reading or at my office eager to talk about his work or ask me if I have anything they might read, look at, or hold and touch. These are moments when even I wish for Oprahtic effusiveness.
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A few weeks ago I unrolled the fabulist and iconic "levy lives" poster and pinned it on my office wall – I've had the poster in a tube for at least a decade, maybe two, and this was the first time I exhibited it. I don't really care if others see it as sentimental, celebratory, romanticizing or exhibitionist or whatever. I might have tacked up any of the other graphics from my tubes or portfolios – the 1999 FBI wanted poster for Osama bin Laden or the pantheon of vile bosses at the FBI with "Mr. Hoover" at the pinnacle, John Mitchell or Joni Mitchell.
Perhaps I wanted the recollective, actual image of levy's profile and those two alliterative words because I need reminders when a project's overdue. But because I continue to reread levy his accomplishments are alive and remain an active and suggestive ingredient for the cookpot of my poetry, and I teach aspiring writers who need clues and references in order to ask the necessary questions about precedent poets. Having that stark graphic on the wall helpfully advances those conversations. Few people identify it as the glorification of a great poet cruelly brought down. Conversations evolve and as a result I loan people my levy books, usually threatening them with horrific fates should they not return them, and so far I've lost nothing and we've all gained much. The accessible, well-worn chapbooks are handled, looked at and read by students and visitors.
I keep functionally close at hand and accessible whatever books, chapbooks, folios, periodicals and other d.a.levy originals, timely reprinted or subsequently reissued editions that I have. As it should be with essential materials, they are constantly in use and circulation and reasonably creased, damaged and dinged.
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d.a.levy has empowered and influenced my work. I've read the man's poems with dedication for 40 years and doubtlessly will continue to do so. His distinctive contributions as a poet lack parallel. While my work is informed by many experiences, literatures and various occasions of chance investigation, purposeful inquiry, serendipity and coincidence, it would be grossly misleading to not mention d.a.levy's importance.
For example, I might just examine the subtle cut of spiral coil that centers levy's "Censorship Poem," discovering for the first time after dozens of prior readings the word television or notice that outstanding is cropped to reveal only outstand, and that I've unconsciously added the ing gerund as a reader. This modest observation tweaks my sense of what is gained or lost by the omission of a portion of a word, by knifing a glyph or cleaving part from what seems otherwise to be a whole. There are poems of d.a.levy's where one knows that ultimately what is is what is.
In the context of the purest of his visual poems there is much to investigate about d.a.levy and calligraphy. I was once in a studio with a notoriously free-style calligrapher who was wildly rasping ink on paper using some wonderfully inappropriate writing tool just so he could experience the splattering possibilities it produced, suggesting but not depicting the marks we identify as alphabetic language. Each calligraphic sheet resulted in some inexact fluid, language-like composition. The conceptual sort of silk screen, glyphic, fragmented and abraded poetry that levy created as a printer tends to be associated with artists and painters such as Jasper Johns, Dieter Rot, Kurt Schwitters, Ed Ruscha or Robert Motherwell. In a cultural environment where specialization rigidifies and simplifies categorization, levy's painterly range of practice as a poet complicates his definable location.
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I might, to offer another example, turn to levy's "OLYMPIgS" collage, allowing my eye to linger on that condemning lower case g, its piggy little tail suspended above a snippet of a Beatles' lyric ["Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all"]. levy's collages are congested, disorienting initially and cohering ultimately. They are resplendent with intruder elements, require repeated reading and looking and, as visionary texts, the collages demand contemplation and attentiveness. The glance or single pass is insufficient. Reflection and revision is essential if one is to go beyond what's obvious. I enjoy and find valuable these many years of re-entry. With respect to collage and related work displaying handwritten marks, scrawl and useful appropriation, it's interesting to consider levy's collages and cut-ups in the company of Wallace Berman or Jess Collins, another two verbo-visual renegades of levy's time.
d.a.levy's work, when I was in my 20s, demonstrated possibilities. levy was advanced well beyond where I was as a poet, printer, publisher or graphic artist and composer. Rarely does one aspire to be another's acolyte, and I don't mean to imply that kind of puerile subservience or apprenticeship, but in levy I recognize a founder and fellow.
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The other day at a secondhand bookstore I picked up relatively recent books of poetry by Larry Levis, Campbell McGrath and James Tate, poets I've read over the years but whose work doesn't imprint my practice as a writer. I read each poet's book [Memoir of the Hawk (Tate, 2001), The Selected Levis (2000), Road Atlas (McGrath, 1999)] and that was that. I'd hoped I'd missed something with these poets that I'd now discover and find useful. Each book was tight, predictable. Not that individual poems lacked merit – they were models of the fluid craft of literary men purposefully pursuing literary goals. Book jacket blurbs touted their particular and cumulative poems as "brutally expansive," 'intellectually provocative," "unexpected," "full of surprises" and "moving toward a great dance of the self finally coming to terms with the world." In the comparative context of these remarks about d.a.levy, I'll hopefully demur from similar overstatement of accomplishment in remarking about his work, but it is tantalizing to consider the applicability of such lofty standards of praise to levy. Nonetheless, these were books of poems that I was fully prepared for, poems I had at least generically read before. I doubt there was anything discovered that in the future will somehow influence my poems. With levy's poems that has not been the case.
My intent is not to diminish the work or legacy of these reputable poets. Levis's, McGrath's and Tate's are trade books of poetry and their contents trade poems. levy's publications always have been dynamic objects, irregular constructs, in birthright closer to samizdat circulation than authorized marketplace. These several books lacked levy's grit, gumption, edge and roughness; each suffers a loss of distinctiveness from commerce's insistent perfection. They are, in aggregate, typical. As discrete texts they're of common size, proportion, book structure, paper stock, and typographic family. It's likely a crude gloss and I'll accept the criticism of overgeneralization, but each poet's attitude suggests that of the others.
levy's poems and publications, upon comparison, are irregular, rude, active, independently non-commercial and without uniformity. His cut-and-paste projects and unstable visual texts implicitly speak of salvage and damaged goods. levy's pages are unlike the pages of other poets [with the notable exception of work that he printed for or collaborated on with friends and other poets of his moment]. levy's work was fugitive in technology and materials. Perhaps more valuably, his work was fugitive in diction, composition and purpose – "fugitive" in that one could characterize levy's work as temporal, elusive or fleeing brutal treatment. His poems, particularly the typographic poems, collages, destructive texts and cut-ups, eschew conventions of stability. They undermine and ridicule standards that more mainstream poets uphold or, at best, modestly taunt.
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It would be an oversight to not offer a brief comment on price as a measure of exchange value and standard of literary merit. Of course, levy's work was available for pennies and its current market price bears scant relationship to original cost. That he hawked the Oracle for a dime on streetcorners or gave copies away has become a part of his legend. That levy's work was so modestly priced is perhaps one singular mark of its revolutionary intent and street-smart purposefulness. That he was a powerful poet and destined to failure as a capitalist is old news.
What poet wants poems in boxes under the bed or moldering in the cellar when they might have been read, circulated, impactfully consumed? What writer wants to witness boxes of books with torn-off covers or know that unsold copies are destined for remainder? To construct a viable personal economy as a poet is more than a challenge; it is a dangerous enterprise. But, live-or-die economic realities aside, it is difficult to reflect upon the price tag of levy's poetry during his life without considering the ironic viciousness of Common Court Judge Frank Celebrezze's imperious 1967 courtroom taunt when he set levy's bail at $2500, adding the oft-quoted comment, "maybe you should charge more than 89 cents for your poems."
Celebrezze's remark echoes and endures for its arrogant philistine cruelty. But it does offer a fulcrum for launching the question of levy's poetry's value as reflected by money. Its trifling price demonstrates a distinguishing value, not a neutralizing diminishment. We understand that the curious elasticity of pricelessness suggests the irrelevance of fixing a dollar value on poetry, whether the price is minimal or grand.
I doubt any attuned reader of The Tibetian Stroboscope or The Egyptian Stroboscope or Rectal Eye Visions or The Ohio City Series or Last Dynasty Notes or any number of other levy poems dismisses them as worthless or generic or commonplace, for they are not. Such poems are valuable accomplishments and are ungoverned by the marketplace. Poets and literary readers need no marketplace measurement, no critical or judicial authority to validate his works' durable beauty or prophetic engagement.
levy's poems' words slide and vibrate, the physical whomp or faint bite of the keystroke or press pull is immediate, visceral and energizing, the loss of articulate clarity and readability as words smudgily disappear or are overwritten enables enhanced meaning and promotes association. The fusion of print technology and human emotion simultaneously resound. These are purposeful qualities that I would enthusiastically appropriate from his work and somehow, with poetry's authenticity of logos, encode or otherwise infuse into my own work.
... END ...
levy moved lucidly and productively between working as a lexical poet, genre-spanning visualizer and printer, singular self and pluralizing other, collaborator, soloist, publisher and tabloid journalist transcending a static canon and academic categories which routinely isolate the work of other artists, scribes and poets. Though forty years have passed since his death, there's much that makes his oeuvre timely and useful as a model for ongoing, functional and utilitarian application.
Poets can strategically, technically and conceptually learn from d.a.levy's work without imitating anything – his randy colloquialisms, neologisms and coinages, his teasing pornographic juxtapositions, his lyrical language usage [whether original or recaptured from other sources], his erasures or his cosmically unifying fluid gestures and consequential results.
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