By Joshua Gage

From a Thesis submitted to the Department of Writing and Poetics
The Jack Kerouac School Naropa University
in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Fine Arts



d. a. levy is often pigeonholed as simply an underground, experimental poet, publisher and activist; while all of that is true, this paper aims to establish d. a. levy as a mystical poet as well, focusing on his visionary work, The North American Book of the Dead. Using the criteria established by linguist Ming-Yu Tseng, this paper will confirm The North American Book of the Dead as mystical literature itself, as opposed to merely alluding to other mystics, and explore levy 's path to the Infinite. It will then explore levy 's use of mysticism, fitting it into his greater rebellious poetics: The North American Book of the Dead



Before a poem can be analyzed as mysticism, a reader must understand what mysticism is. Evelyne Underhill, prolific scholar of mystical literature, defines mysticism as "the expression of the innate tendency of the human spirit towards complete harmony with the transcendental order" (qtd. in Tseng 63). Editor, author, spiritual leader and mystic Andrew Harvey describes mystical experiences as

the direct, unmediated experience of what Bede Griffith beautifully describes as 'the presence of an almost unfathomable mystery . . . which seems to be drawing me to itself.' This mystery is beyond name and beyond form; no name or form, no dogma, philosophy, or set of rituals can ever express it fully. (x)

These somewhat vague terms ("transcendental order" and "unfathomable mystery") must be used because mysticism has no set path, and each religion and spiritual path has its own name for this Infinite Source, whether it is a named deity or simply an altered state of consciousness.

Mystics, then, are people drawn to something spiritually beyond this basic existence, some Infinite Source. If one is to understand levy as a mystic, and thus his poetry as mystical poetry, one must understand his personal understanding of this Infinite Source. levy 's fellow poet, roommate and biographer, Russell Salamon, offers some insight into this:

This Source does not end nor begin, it has no time, it makes time, it has no form but creates forms, and space and energy and matter and poetry and philosophy and economics and trees and mountains and cotton clouds over snow on mountains. It is aware of awareness and makes its own life; it is not created by "god," but by itself. It is easy to see and speak with. If we used Life or Man anyplace that the word "god" is used (to shunt responsibility from self) we would be closer to understanding that LIFE IS YOU. (26 Feb)

Mystics are briefly consumed or saturated by this Source to the point that they cease to exist outside of it. "This 'cease to exist' is Nirvana, and other eastern attempts to cease being and to merge into a higher truth" (Salamon 26 Feb). Philip Kapleu, an author and scholar with whom levy was familiar, defines Nirvana as "realization of selfless 'I'; satori; the experience of Changelssness, of inner Peace and Freedom. . . . Nirvana is also used in the sense of a return to the original purity of the Buddha-nature after the dissolution of the physical body, i.e., to the Perfect Freedom of the unconditioned state" (339-340). Salamon continues, "this word 'cease' is loosely defined and too wide. It does not mean to cease being an immortal being. It may mean cease being human, cease being stupid, cease being someone else, cease being a limited opinion"(26 Feb). In other words, when a mystic is consumed by the Source, when a mystic reaches what levy would understand as a state of Nirvana, he or she does not die or cease being a physical being, but rises to an altered level of consciousness, or reaches what levy would identify as their Buddha nature. Mystical poetry, then, describes this experience in order that others may be drawn to this power and participates in the Infinite.

Linguist Ming-Yu Tseng proposes five requirements for mystical poetry; using these one can establish a poem as mystical literature, as opposed to simply alluding to religious and mystical texts. One of Tseng's requirements for mystical poetry is "The Matrix of a Journey" (Tseng 70). To understand Tseng's requirement, the reader must first understand his use of the word matrix, as well as hypogram and schema.

Matrix represents a particular system of knowledge that generates something else that is related to it as mother to child….A word or minimal sentence can serve as a matrix not only because of the word or sentence, but also because of the implicit underlying knowledge and because of its associative meanings. (70-71)

Tseng broadens this definition with a quote from Harry Shaw: "It refers to that which gives origin or form to something or which encloses it; for example, Rome was the matrix of Western European civilization" (quoted in Tseng 70). If one is seeking the "Matrix of a Journey" in a text, one must seek out words that create a journey.

Closely related to matrix is the idea of hypogram. According to Riffaterre, 'the production of the poetic sign is determined by a hypogrammatic derivation: a word or phrase is poeticized when it refers to (and, if a phrase, patterns itself upon) a preexistent word group.' (Tseng 70)

Though there are differences, it may be easy for the casual reader to think of hypogram as a specific type of allusion. "The concept 'hypogram' offers one way of relating linguistic evidence to a matrix of a particular text" (Tseng 70). A hypogram can be "a grid of metonymns build around a kernel word, [so] its components have the same markers as that word throughout" (Riffaterre quoted in Tseng 70). Again, if one seeks "The Matrix of a Journey" in a text, one must find words that refer to or pattern themselves upon the preexistent word "journey", or possibly metonyms for the idea of "journey," such as "road" or "path".

The North American Book of the Dead, specifically Parts I and II, contains the matrix of a journey. The hypogram consist of words expressing aspects of a journey: "I" (agent), "world noise", "quiet place", "there" (spatial points), "open", "look", "ride", "returned", "follow", "goes", "leaves" (action), "pale horse", "white ponies" (means of traveling) (Tseng 71). It should also be mentioned that almost every draft of the poem is almost completely void of punctuation. This form "demonstrates what Riffaterre calls 'expansion' of a matrix. The journey is expanded in such a way that the long sentence itself iconically suggests the ongoing process of a journey" (Tseng 72). What is implied in Tseng is the purpose of the journey; the agent travels towards the Infinite. levy 's specific journey is from "noise" to "the quiet place" (levy 1999 154); therefore, it should be assumed that levy 's representation of the Infinite in The North American Book of the Dead is "the quiet place."

This idea of "the quiet place" as a representation of the Infinite is reinforced by the use of negation. Another of Tseng's requirements for mystical literature is "Negation as a Heuristic Means of Spiritual Ascent . . . .Negation plays a part in mirroring and creating possible new worlds. The 'visible didactic' and 'double-think' as performed by negation can be further elaborated on by considering what world or world-view negation helps to shape in a text" (Tseng 65). The creation of new worlds, or as levy puts it, "new myths," is an essential part of his personal poetics and is therefore an essential part of The North American Book of the Dead ("Manifesto" 2). levy uses a series of negations to represent "the quiet place" as the Infinite:

in the quiet place
        roars the ocean water
        the ocean is silent
        a child calling is answered
        with laughter is absolute silence
        in the quiet place
        are clouds moving
        the sound of the sun
        the sound of the moon
        is absolute silence
        in the quiet place
        are clouds moving
        on the mountains
        is the roar of waterfalls
        is the snap of a snow covered branch

        is the snap of a snow covered branch breaking

        the explosion of the mountain not moving
        is absolute silence

        in the quiet place
                is the wind whistling
                the wind picking me up
                is absolute silence...

(Levy 1999 156-157)

The negation is obvious. If a reader is to understand "the quiet place" as "quiet," it should have no noise, and yet it contains everything from snaps to sounds, and even explosions. Tseng asserts that these negatives have a specific purpose in the realm of mystical literature, "To make sense of the various negatives . . . it is necessary to recognize the first stage of the dialectic, where opposites are formed and where the world is dissected—the proposition that the negatives aim to subvert" (Tseng 66).

For levy , the "world noise" is a place where opposites exist. This is reiterated by the lines

thousands of birds singing
thousands of teakettles ringing
thousands of radio signals JAMMED
on one channel

(Levy 1999 159)

This is the first stage of the dialectic, as well as the first point of the previously established journey. "The negations, in the second stage, evoke all the more the co-existence of the opposites in the positive forms" (Tseng 66). The opposites are negated (quiet versus roar, roar versus silent, quiet versus snap, explosion versus silent, quiet versus whistling) in the second stage of the dialectic, the Infinite. Of course, there is a correlation to via negativa, or the description of the Infinite by what it is not. The Infinite is neither "noise" or noises (roar, snap, explosion, whistling), nor is it "silence" or "quiet," but "a quiet place" where opposites exist simultaneously, or as Tseng writes "opposites and contradictions may be resolved and, ultimately, transcended" (66).

Closely linked with negation is Tseng's third requirement for mystical poetry, "Parallelism or Paradox," specifically on the sentence level. levy writes, "if you look inside/you find yourself/outside" (levy 1999 160) or, from the first published version of the poem, "if you climb inside/you find yourself/outside" (levy 1965 9). These lines, especially the physical journey implied by the first edition of the poem, "may be considered as introducing the journey and summarizing the negative way to the goal….These negative terms contribute to the via negative mentioned earlier"(Tseng 68). We see this syntactic parallelism earlier in levy , "i look for the quiet place/without looking" (levy 1999 157) Again, there is the implication of a journey ("look") and a destination that represents the Infinite ("the quiet place"), but the only way there is through a paradox. This is extremely important in mystical discourse. "Mystical paradox serves to express some kind of union, as incongruities, contradictions, and opposites are fused and reconciled in paradox . . . .The inventive and argumentative qualities of paradox assist in the discovery of new insights to truth, forcing the mind to express the inexpressible" (Tseng 69). levy 's parallelism and paradox challenges his reader to accept a traditionally non-Western approach to the Infinite, forcing their "mind into a new truth, generating a new perception of the world" (Tseng 69). Again, the creation of new worlds or myths is essential to levy 's poetics and so it is important that these new myths are reinforced with new perceptions created by mystical paradox ("Manifesto" 2).

The fourth of Tseng's requirements for mystical poetry is "metaphor of depersonalization. It refers to the type of metaphor that uses the non-human to characterize or epitomize aspects of the human. Depersonalization…is exploited for the purpose of lifting the human sphere toward the Ultimate" (75). Russell Salamon challenges Tseng's word choice. "There are no ultimates. There is infinity one can expand into, but it does not end, by definition.…It is really 'de-body-fication,' or removal of fake identities to get to the free nothingness that causes its own life and grants life to others. Potential infinity is a nothingness that can consider things exist, and that it itself, exists" (26 Feb). Whatever the word choice, the goal is essentially the same — to remove that which keeps one from the Infinite, even if it's one's own body or self. According to Tseng, this is done in poetry through metaphor.

It is important to understand that when levy uses depersonalization, he does so to represent himself, as the speaker of the poem, connected with the Infinite Source. This is what Salamon means by "cease being human, cease being stupid, cease being someone else, cease being a limited opinion" (26 Feb). levy does not die, but becomes something else. Though levy does not explicitly state a metaphor, he does imply a metaphor with the line "I become the eye" and later, implies a metaphor with the line "i become the heart—the love" (levy 1999 157-158). In other words, levy ceases to exist as a person and becomes the eye and the heart, implying the metaphor "I am the eye" and "I am the heart." This is important because the eye is the doorway to the Infinite, "the eye opens/to a quiet place of clouds"(levy 1999 154), and the heart is what opens the eye. The speaker is the doorway to the Infinite and the way to open that doorway.

Tseng writes "Such a metaphor serves to pave the way for the breakthrough of another sphere of being, or mode of perception in which human beings are seen in their ultimate nature" (77). levy uses the depersonalization in the statements "I become the eye" and "i become the heart—the love" to explain that his way out of the "world noise" into the Infinite is himself. In essence, levy uses depersonalization to represent the fact that he has entered a state of Nirvana, and has become, like all mystics, consumed by the Infinite.

In levy 's poetics, this connection with the Infinite directly correlates with the fifth of Tseng's requirements, "The Generic Sentence as Highlighted Voice." Generic sentences "are . . . semi-proverbial sentences in which the speaker asserts the truth of the predicate in respect to all possible references of the subject noun phrase" (Fowler quoted in Tseng 72-73). Tseng writes:

Generics range from undisputed facts (e.g. 'Tigers are carnivorous') to evaluative propositions (e.g. 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife'; Pride and Prejudice). Among the features of generics I would emphasize four particular points. First, generics have a temporal element of timelessness, often expressed in simple present tense. Second, a generic proposition exemplifies an implicit dialogue of the hidden speaker 'I' to the reader. Third, generics have an authoritarian connotation, for they 'claim universal truth.' Fourth, the claimed truth entails a certain world-view that underlies a society. (73)

What Tseng implies is that the generic sentence is the voice of the Infinite; he even points out that Eliot uses generic sentences spoken by the Krishna from the Bhagavad-Gita to underpin his own generics (74). The North American Book of the Dead is littered with generics, only a few of which are in all caps, or a highlighted voice, that can be interpreted as levy screaming. However, if it is assumed that levy has ceased to exist because he has entered a state of Nirvana and has become one with the Infinite, it can be assumed that all the generics are in the voice of the Infinite. Tseng's requirement for a "Highlighted Voice" may again be misworded, or simply inaccurate. If a mystic is one who is connected to the Infinite, and the required generic sentence is presumed to be the voice of the Infinite, then it would make sense that, in certain types of mystical poetry and discourse, the whole poem itself would be spoken in the voice of the Intimate, and thus no sentence, generic or otherwise, would be highlighted or marked as separate from the voice of the speaker or poet.

levy 's generics range from seemingly factual statements (e.g."one may leave the body by leaving the body" and "this is the way of the Tibetan monk/leaving the body" (159)) to bold declarations of existence (e.g. "HERE I AM" (157)) and even prophetic warnings (e.g. "if we use your rules/it would be fear that/brings us to/this sudden emptiness" (163)) However, assuming the postulate that Tseng's "Highlighted Voice" is that of the Infinite, the reader can deduce that all of levy 's generics are in a highlighted voice because levy is becoming or has become the Infinite. As seen in the depersonalizing statements "I become the eye" and "i become the heart—the love", levy is portraying himself as the doorway to the Infinite, as well as the way to open the door, as summarized in the lines

the great light is everywhere
one finds the great light
by opening the eye
one opens the eye with love

(levy 1999 160)

The North American Book of the Dead is levy 's "most visionary poem" (levy 1991 xiv) because of its mysticism. levy details a journey between "the world noise" and his poeticized Infinite, "the quiet place," a paradoxical journey to a place where opposites are comfortably negated and transcended. levy finds the quiet place within himself and ceases to exist, completely absorbed into the Infinite: The North American Book of the Dead details levy 's mystical journey and his absolute union with the Infinite.



The North American Book of the Dead, though it outlines a mystical journey, also contains instructions for that path, taken from Zen Buddhism. We know that levy was "intimate with the literature of Zen Buddhism from Huang Po to Alan Watts" (Wagner), so it should come as no surprise that this made it into his poetry. The fact that sitting meditation, or za-zen, as well as satori are so clearly poeticized by levy offers the reader insight into the clear juxtaposition that he is expressing in his work. When levy writes "the quiet place is a doorway/that opens to nothing/the return is thought" (levy 1999 157) and in the next section

the eye is a line
shallow breathing BREAKS the line
i jump from fragment to fragment
becomes smaller and faster
the white ray is gone
a tunnel UP or OUT from the eye
i follow the tunnel with the eye
I become the eye
the eye becomes the light at
the end of the tunnel
the light becomes a thought

(levy 1999 157)

it is obvious that levy is poetically describing za-zen. "Za-zen is simply quiet awareness, without comment, of whatever happens to be here and now… Naturally, this sensation does not arise by trying to acquire it; it just comes by itself when one is sitting and watching without any purpose in mind..." (Watts 156).

In The North American Book of the Dead, levy becomes "the quiet place" or the Infinite through what Watts describes as "the most vivid sensation of 'nondifference' between oneself and the external world, between the mind and its contents—the various sounds, sights, and other impressions of the surrounding environment" (156). The line "HERE I AM" should not be taken as an announcement of arrival, but as a statement of communion and being, e.g., levy is saying "Here, in this place, I exist as I truly am." The focus on the breath in this passage is also important. "The slow, easy breathing from the belly works upon the consciousness like bellows, and gives it a still, bright clarity" (Watts 156). Thus levy writes "I watch the breathing" (levy 1999 157). As Watts and levy both observe, as soon as thought or intention enter the process, the awareness is shattered. Writes levy, "i look for the quiet place/without looking/it disappears when i know i am there"(levy 1999 157).

The enlightened awakening produced by meditation, or satori, through not seeking is also poeticized by levy . "Satori really designates the sudden and intuitive way of seeing into anything, whether it be remembering a forgotten name or seeing into the deepest prinsiples of Buddhism. One seeks and seeks, but cannot find"(Watts 161). This is poeticized by levy when he writes

Most people
looking for shadows
and trails on a moonless night
someone closes his eyes to rest
AS, there's the trail!

(levy 1999 161)

This discovery by not seeking is exactly what Watts is describing in his explanation of satori, "One then gives up, and the answer comes by itself" (Watts 161).

For Philip Kapleau, another author with whom levy was familiar, satori-awakening is only the second of three aims of za-zen.

The last of these three objectives is mujodo no taigen, the actualization of the Supreme Way throughout our entire being and our daily activities. At this point we do not distinguish the end for the means . . . .When you sit earnestly and egolessly in accordance with the instructions of a competent teacher — i.e., with your mind, though fully conscious, as free of thought as a pure white sheet of paper is unmarred by a blemish—there is an unfoldment of your intrinsically pure Buddha-nature whether you have had satori or not. (48)

This is clearly what is happening in The North American Book of the Dead. levy describes sitting in za-zen, watching his breath, and unfolding his Buddha-nature, to the point that he achieves satori or even nirvana, which levy poeticizes as "the quiet place." When levy writes

i tried to leave my body
by breaking down the walls
for seven years
i tried to leave my body
by breaking down the walls
when i found the door
i stuck one foot Out

(levy 1999 159)

he is describing the egolessness that Kapleau refers to, and uses the primal scream "YAAAAAAHH" (159) to represent his unfolding Buddha-nature, or his connection with the Infinite. It should be evident, then, that levy is exploring a path of Zen meditation to achieve satori and connect with the Infinite.



At levy fest 2005, Larry Smith presented d. a. levy as a "Rebel Poet" using a list of general characteristics to create a composite model. Indeed, the list reads like a checklist of levy's biography, and levy himself is represented on the corresponding webpage (Smith). Of key interest to the readers of The North American Book of the Dead are the following points: "Often sees self as a social outsider—observer-critic role" and "Attains vision that writing and art matter—can change the world". Through his juxtapositions of "the quiet place" with "the world noise", it should be clear that levy is using mysticism to critique and change 1960's society.

levy was extremely critical of the city and society he lived in, and used his poetry to express this.

We return to the problem of the poet confronted with the violence of the modern landscape, the banal cityscape, which offers absolutely no refuge. It is to this violence of modern city life, and to the violence done to our existence in the service of technology, that levy objects, responding with great anger . . . .And where in the sacred Buddhist text, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, death is transformational, leading to a spiritual awakening and liberation, in levy's North American Book of the Dead we encounter the anguish of real spiritual death"
(Swanberg in levy 1991 xiv)

As Ingrid Swanberg explores, the parts of the text that are not concerned with the mystical journey indeed focus on urban decay and the resulting decay of the spirit.

at 22 i am tired
of a tired world
of my own ignorance

when i scream at the sky
my voice is drowned
by the apathy around me

at 22 i'd rather detonate
the world for a moment
of not being
perhaps next year ill be 40
& have more patience
but what of now
i scream at the sky
"Fuck all the gods
& prophets of waiting/
it is time to open
the doors of light
                and love"
        and nothing
seems to happen

for centuries
i have been forced
to sleepwalking on these roads of decay
i have been here before
and i know it
but who i was
& who i am
i have forgotten

(levy 1999 166-167)

Words like "ignorance," "apathy" and "sleepwalking" are very straight forward critiques of the world noise of 1960's society. As a poet, levy has very high expectations of people, but not without reason. levy, as one who has experienced a mystical vision, knows the potential of humanity. He knows what people are capable of becoming and bases his expectations on that. As Russell Salamon writes, "d.a. levy was on the road to truth and expected other beings to see the need for truth, and was shocked and upset that so few were working toward total knowingness" (26 Feb).

Indeed, it is this world of noise and distraction that keeps levy from the Infinite. In fact, when he is in the quiet place, it is this world that drags him out of it.

it disappears when i know I am there
        color images
negative images
trucks cars cunts flowers birds
light jade ivory sculpture
places no-places temples thighs
cities casts flashes
roses clouds eye EYE

(levy 1999 157)

levy is attacked with images and thoughts, the chaos of the world noise, and is dragged out of his meditation and his union with the Infinite back into the world noise, which is represented by a litany of images, from the sexual ("cunts" and "thighs"), the natural ("birds" and "flowers") to the man-made ("trucks cars" and "temples"). He tries to return to the Infinite with "eye EYE," the eye already established as the doorway to the Infinite, but is distracted by "chaos," and ends up screaming against the world noise.

levy is also quite critical of the apathy he senses in other people, specifically other Americans.

to find liberation
you must be able to love
or hate
or something
yet when I look around me
all I can feel is a sickly compassion
and something of sadness

(levy 1999 167)

levy speaks of the connection between spiritual "liberation" and passion ("love/or hate/or something") and juxtaposes this with the oxymoronic "sickly compassion" and "sadness". The oxymoron is direct commentary; it could be the compassion itself that is sick (not present enough or not present at all), or the motivation for the compassion is itself sickness (false altruism, ego-based martyrdom, etc.), but either way it results in sadness, and for levy, eventual exhaustion and death.

when i was younger
i thought i knew of love
i knew of Christian love
of bhakti yoga
& something of a jews love
buried beneath my american debree
and now
at 22 . . . im tired

& i don't know how they are doing it
when i walk down
            the winter steps
i can feel the sickness
            enter my boots
and the slow decay
            licking my eye
and there are times
when even anger
is too much of an effort

(levy 1999 167)

levy feels the apathy and corrosion of society drain and destroy him. The "american debree" literally buries the religious passion and, instead of being consumed by the Infinite, levy is consumed by "sickness" and "decay," to the point that he can't feel any emotion, even anger.

levy 's criticism of modern society is pointed, bitter and complete. "how can you ring up a/request for a sane world" (levy 1999 168). As fellow publisher and writer Douglas Blazek writes, levy "challenged things that were sacred to America but corrosive to the human spirit. He wrote about the obscenity of the dying world. . ." (205).

However, it should be pointed out that as part of his rebellion, levy doesn't actually offer leadership or a solution, but simply observations and a choice. This directly connects with Smith's proposed characteristic, "Often sees self as a social outsider—observer-critic role." This role is discussed in an interview between Ingrid Swanberg and D. R. Wagner. According to Wagner, levy's "writing switches back and forth so much, between these visions of what he's seeing with his eyes and the visions of what he wants it to be" because "he wanted social change towards renaissance. That's what he was hammering about to his audience" (levy 1991 241). There is a conflict between the social and the religious because the audience would pick up on certain things they needed or wanted to hear, and force levy into those roles, whether it be mystical prophet or political activist. For levy, that wasn't the point of his poetry, nor was it his responsibility as a poet. "He just kept saying, "No, no, no. You don't get it. Poet. That's the job. The job is to be able to talk about these things. My job is to see it, talk about it. I'm not going to lead you people" (levy 1991 241). levy is, to some extent, placing himself outside of society in The North American Book of the Dead by critiquing and observing both society and the possibility for spiritual growth. He does not directly choose a side or demand his audience follow a certain path; he simply presents two sides of the issue and lets the reader make their own decision based on the juxtaposition.

This idea of non-leadership is especially essential to understanding the end of The North American Book of the Dead. levy is critically observing the spiritual destruction of his community, as well as juxtaposing a mystical alternative; however, he is not leading people, which is why the poem ends not with the cynical "Oh! all this tranquility/what the fuck good is it//you can have my buddha nature/for a juicy steak & a joint"(levy 1999 168) but with Part VI, Litany of the Green Lion. The prayer itself contains allusions to not only Buddhism but also Christianity and Egyptian polytheism. Of course, the image of the Green Lion itself comes from medieval alchemy, being sulphuric or nitric acid. The common association is the Green Lion devouring the sun, which "can be thought of as aqua regia dissolving the solar gold and forming a solution which could readily tinge metals with gold" (McClean).

What is of importance to levy 's role as poet, and indeed the construct or characteristic of a Rebel Poet that poetry "can change the world" (Smith), are the italicized instructions to the reader, "a ready-made litany/fill in the blank spaces with the name of yr particular deity, yr own name or leave blank. Memorize & recite at the moment before falling asleep, the moment before orgasm, etc"(levy 1999 169). With these instructions, levy gives the reader the final decision; full responsibility for societal renaissance or demise is placed solely in the hands of the reader. The reader has been presented with two arguments, and is given the choice between the old or current path (yr particular diety), the new path (yr own name) or no path (leave blank). The fact that levy leaves the selection up to the reader cannot be overstressed: levy is not a leader, but simply an artist in an outsider role, a role of critic and observer. It also cannot be ignored that levy, like other mystics, honors multiple paths in this litany. Akin to giving the reader the ultimate control over society's fate, levy presents a variety of religions in hybrid, in a sense revering the Infinite in all forms and razing any one specific dogma or fundamentalism. Nevertheless, the reader is in charge. As Andrew Harvey writes:

We must wake up in massive numbers, and very fast, to the sacred glory of life and nature and to our sacred responsibility to preserve both or be destroyed. In this waking up the great mystics of the world are our truest and deepest and bravest friends, for together they give us the full visionary information we now need as urgently as oxygen. Armed with the highest, most balanced, and most focused insights of all the different approaches to the "almost unfathomable mystery," we still have a chance to solve our and the planet's immense problems together. (xv)

levy knew of this urgency, and observed just some of these problems in his poem. He also juxtaposed these problems with the positive potential of humanity with his mystical journey.


Using the criteria established by Ming Yu-Tseng, it is clear that d. a. levy 's vatic poem, The North American Book of the Dead, is mystical poetry rather than merely allusive to other mystical works. The North American Book of the Dead explores not only levy 's Buddhist path to the Infinite, but also his use of mysticism as social critique and rebellion. levy has been previously established by Larry Smith as a Rebel Poet, and The North American Book of the Dead uses mysticism to participate in that character composite because it places levy in an outsider/observer-critic role and uses mysticism to critique society and change the world. Despite his importance in American poetic history, not only as a publisher and editor, but also as a poet, levy is oft ignored, both in anthologies and study. When he is studied, it is most often as an experimental poet. It is hoped that studies on levy and his poetry will continue, and that he and his work are further explored, not only as experimental, but as mystic and lyrical as well.


Works Cited

    Harvey, Andrew, ed. The Essential Mystics: The Soul's Journey into Truth. Edison, NJ: Booksales, Inc., 1996.
    Kapleau, Philip, ed. The Three Pillars of Zen. Boston: Beacon Press, 1965.
    levy , d. a. The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle: The Art and Poetry of d. a. levy. Ed. Mike Golden. New York:     Seven Stories Press, 1999.
    ---. North American Book of the Dead. Cleveland: Free Lance Press, 1965.
    ---. zen concrete & etc.. Ed. Ingrid Swanberg. Madison, WI: ghost pony press, 1991.
    McLean, Adam. "Animal Symbolism in the Alchemical Tradition." The Alchemy Website. 7 Feb. 2007.
    Salamon, Russell. Letter to the author. 26 Feb 2007.
    Smith, Larry. Portrait of a Rebel Poet. 29 Dec 2006. 26 Feb 2007.
    The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry:(principles behind the writings of 6 Cleveland poets.). Cleveland: Free Lance Press, 1964.
    Tseng, Ming-Yu. "Expressing the Ineffable: Toward a Poetics of Mystical Writing." Social Semiotics. 12.1(2002). 63-82.
    Wagner, D. r. "A QUICK LOOK INTO THE EGYPTIAN STROBOSCOPE, A BOOK WRITTEN collaboratively by d.a.levy and D. r. Wagner in 1966." d. a. levy Homepage. 1 Feb. 2007.
    Watts, Alan. The Way of Zen. 1957. New York: Random House, Inc., 1989.

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