What got you interested in d.a.levy?
And why do you continue to read him?

Response by Joshua Gage


1. What was it about levy's work that first drew your interest, and what was it about the work that distinguished him from other poets you had read?

I was going to school in New York (Sarah Lawrence College), and was sick of New Yorkers bragging their poets, so I hunted up every poet I could find that was from Cleveland. At the time, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry was published, with its meager offerings from levy, so I researched him and soaked up everything I could. What distinguished levy, and subsequent poets I've met through Deep Cleveland, is the honest mirror held up to Cleveland. There is a mixture of celebration and rage that I've felt at the city--the "OH, YOU WITH YOUR BRIDGES AND SKYSCRAPERS AND POLLUTED WATERS ARE BEAUTIFUL" paralleled with "ARGH!!! WHY DOES THIS CITY WREAK OF SUCH [fill in immediate social problem here]", and the back and forth between the two is something I really identified with. There is a passion in levy that I think a lot of modern poets (yes, even those from New York) are missing. Also, levy could experiment, but he was also lyrical. I think that ability is something that is lost on some poets, who want to do one or the other. levy was also an artist, and can't be pigeonholed into one category. That drew me in, as well.

2. What has kept you reading him (if you have been doing so over a long period of time), and/or why do you think his work will continue to interest you in the future?

Joanne Cornelius insists that levy's "Cleveland Undercovers" is the greatest poem ever written about Cleveland. I disagree (it's really "The North American Book of the Dead.") but the issue is that whichever poem is the greatest, levy wrote it. No other Cleveland poet comes close. I have studied Ed Sanders' Investigative Poetics technique, and sooner or later, someone (possibly me if I can find the money to stay around long enough) should/will write the entire history of Cleveland in verse. Until that time, levy remains the poet laureate of Cleveland.

3. How has levy influenced your own work?

levy taught me, over anybody else, that it was okay to say the things that needed to be said as opposed to the things that "should" be said. Not necessarily in terms of swearing, but giving myself permission to write ugly poems, but poems that pointed to a deeper truth than a "proper" or "academic" poem would. levy also taught me how to integrate the spiritual and the mystic into the urban landscape, and taught me that this was possible. Though the obvious formal influence on my chapbook "Deep Cleveland Lenten Blues" is Kerouac, the content and the longing for mysticism is all levy. levy also made me understand and consider the audience of my work and the importance of other people reading my poems.

4. How has his work affected your sense of the work of other poets and/or of poetry in general?

I find myself expecting a lot more from other poets, in terms of content. I plow through literary journal after literary journal, and read poem after poem in class when I was still a student, and very few people seemed interested in a strong content. There were exceptions, of course: Tim Seibles is one, and his Buffalo Head Solos is a must read for anyone desiring vaccination from the current political plague that infects the United States. Sam Hamill's "Poets Against The War" project is another. However, too few poets have any solid content or intention in their work, and I find myself frustrated with their pablum.


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