"Do People Communicate?"

three new Kirpan editions of d.a.levy
Kirpan Press, P.O. Box 2943, Vancouver, WA 98668-2943
[make checks payable to A. Horvath]

Review by T.L.Kryss

Random Sightings (With No One Around): letters from d.a.levy, by d.a.levy; facsimile reproductions of levy's handwritten and typescript correspondence with his friends from 1963 to 1968; 89 pages, limited edition of 79; Kirpan Press, $17.50 plus $3 shipping.

(Taylor-Made) Random Sightings [1962 - 1964], by d.a.levy; rare poems and previously unpublished artwork from levy's earliest period; 83 pages, limited edition of 68; Kirpan Press, $20 plus $3 shipping.

(Not So) Random Sightings [1965 - 1966], by d.a.levy; rare and previously unpublished paintings, drawings and poems from levy's middle period, the original manuscript for The North American Book of the Dead (Parts 1 and 2); 88 pages, limited edition of 74; Kirpan Press, $22.50 plus $3 shipping.

After the initial shock, reports of a new phase must have traveled like leaves on a stream. A hurriedly conceived memorial service, unattended by some, went forward in a church in East Cleveland. Others, gathered inside a nearby apartment, were surprised by the sudden tendering of a foil-wrapped box the size of a container used to transport a single orchid without crushing it. Passed from hand to hand, its true weight was already beginning to occasion differences of opinion as wide and as fundamentally aligned as waves on a sea. A newspaper reporter sat down with his pencil poised over a notebook. Only one of those gathered had the presence of mind to offer an account of the life. The others were fortunate to later be able to recognize the change from yellow to red in a traffic light.

The differences of opinion were very much present in his lifetime, but a few things can be said with certainty. He used words, paint, paper, and ink to convey the immediacy of his environment, reach other people and bring them together. He considered it his calling not only to create, but to open eyes and build bridges. Internal war and poverty often took a back seat, or ran side by side, with what was going on in the world; in the end even he couldn't tell the crosscurrents apart. He was accessible to almost everyone; and believed that expression - even the prospects of its futility - should be accessible to everyone; that poetry and art were potential forces for good. He spoke for those who, for one reason or another, couldn't speak for themselves; and yet laughed, chafed, at the notion that he was anyone's leader: each must create and assume responsibility for his life every day. He worked so hard - he thought so hard - on these matters you could see the effect in the lines of his face. The contradictions he was prone to pale beside what he tried to accomplish.

The leaves came down from the tree and floated into the stream. A high school student in Cleveland began picking them up, drying them off, and putting them into his pocket; and then searching them out in places as widespread as libraries, cellars, sealed cardboard boxes, the worldwide web. For over four decades he endeavored to reproduce them - just as they fell from the tree - bind them, and make them available at reasonable cost to anyone who might want to see what a levy painting or poem looked like when it came off the typewriter, mimeograph, the nubs of his pencils and pens. Where possible Alan Horvath has carefully disassembled the original books and taken the image of individual pages before putting the books back together. Librarians have stood by, slightly bewildered, and watched him ferreting through old boxes which have lain in obscure corners for years, organizing the contents and asking for the privilege of copying select items; sometimes the librarians didn't even know what they had, and found themselves in the curious position of listening to the man's explanations. Family and friends of levy have opened their hearts and the doors of their homes to Alan, parting with at least the images of the original work. Alan grew up with the first of these pages laid into suitcases; they accompanied him across the country and back, through the stages of his life. In the year 2007, as this is being written, he has now - personally and page by page - self-published a wider range of the work than perhaps ever appeared in levy's lifetime.

One of the beauties of these three new Kirpan Press levy releases - indeed, any Kirpan-produced levy book - is that they find and strike exactly the right chords in their presentation by allowing the work to speak for itself. Without introduction or commentary - and with only the barest suggestions of the publisher's presence - they hone as close to the originals as it was in Alan's power to reproduce them. That he assembled each book by hand, though not a process conducive to widespread distribution, resonates sweetly with levy's own production methods. Here are the mimeographed bulletins, announcements for the public readings of poetry, broadsides and odd sheets of magic you might have received from the hand of d.a. had you run into him on the sidewalks of Public Square in Cleveland. Reprinted for the very first time is a mimeographed flyer, soliciting funds, put out by a friend when levy's mimeograph was confiscated by the Cleveland Police: it explains the problem and then says, "Please give your nickels, dimes, and dollars to keep d.a.levy printing." In levy's handwritten and typewritten correspondence to a handful of friends we find, as if it were needed, a window into his experiences adrift in New York ("Tell Jim Lowell to hang onto his mimeograph machine"). The arrests in Cleveland, his often self-deprecating humor and angst, a cat flying out the window at midnight near the time of the riots, and what are thought to be some of his final thoughts in a sad, rambling and marvelous letter to his friend Robert Aitken, all are chronologically arranged and interspersed with his drawings, reading lists, and grocery store coupons which he personalized in his inimitable fashion. The net effect is not one of a pile of loose odds and ends, but of a living and breathing progression - the story, if you will, in levy's own words. The two Kirpan volumes conceived around levy's paintings and poems make use of much material located and pulled from the poetry magazines and journals of the time, now long out of print and never before collected. Here, also, are manuscript facsimiles bearing a Rorschach of inkblots and typewritten corrections. There are impressionistic paintings of dinosaurs carrying surfboards, Lenny Bruce chasing mobs of angry Catholics, and "Climbing the turnpike fence to wonder at the wet mountainside wild flowers." An edition of The North American Book of the Dead received individual hand-painted covers, each of them different; as many as could be found are reproduced here, and are as vibrant as on the day they were painted on whatever paper happened to be on hand at the moment; the only lost aspect is the fragrance of paint. The physical panache with which levy constructed Renegade Press and 7 Flowers Press editions is somehow conveyed over the space of four decades.

On the cover of Random Sightings (With No One Around) is a curious computer-generated image by Alan Horvath, one of the few personal touches he has permitted to dominate. It seems to be a shadowy three-quarter profile (at sunset) of a Hulett, a towering piece of machinery once used to load iron ore on the lakefront in Cleveland. At the summit of the machine there is what appears to be a glass cage with its roof partially opened, and inside - if you look hard - the figure of an operator staring into the distance. Alan won't say exactly how he made the picture, or tell what it is. I have my own ideas - and probably wouldn't hear him. If he did in fact tell me, the revelation has already faded and come around to my way of seeing things.

                                                                                   October 29, 2007
                                                                                   Ravenna, Ohio


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