Friday, February 06, 2009

The Darkness Above. Selected Poems: 1968-2002. by Donald Lev

The Darkness Above. Selected Poems: 1968-2002. by Donald Lev ( Red Hill Outloud Books POBOX 86 Claryville, NY 12725)

Donald Lev, the founder of the venerable New York-based literary tabloid “The Home Planet News” has a new collection of his “ancient” poetry out ,as he described it in a note to me.

The poems in this book go back forty years. If I remember correctly this was the time of my first Robert Hall suit and my Bar Mitzvah. I’ve met Lev at a couple of gatherings at Poet’s House in NYC, and he impresses me as the proverbial, old school, New York, bohemian, poet.

Lev is in his seventies and in his time operated the Home Planet News Bookshop in the Lower East Side, had a brief stint as an underground actor most notably in “Putney Swope,” was a regular poetry contributor to the Village Voice, worked the wire rooms of the Daily News and the New York Times, to name a few gigs.

The poems presented in “The Darkness Above…” are chockfull of wit, irony, kosher chicken hearts, Westchester County, astrology, spirituality, that is to say a very wide swath. It sort reminds me of the poetry of my old pal Hugh Fox—although Fox dwells more in the long and rambling form.

In the poem “Higgins Again” Lev compares an old wino falling off his stool as a metaphor for the poet trying to perfect a poem night after night:

higgins again
Pat Higgins was an old man, used to be
an elevator operator at the
Forest Hills Inn
and used to sit in
Marshall’s Bar night after night till closing time
drinking beer and stout and
talking to himself
he fell off his stool a
couple of times
before he died
night after night do I
attempt this poem?

In “Thoughts on Allen Ginsberg” Lev writes about his mentor , and in turns defines his own artistic life and vision:

“…but he for me somehow was always
a permitting presence.
i’d scan the universe for hints on how
a jewish dropout in America, reluctant to leave queens,
makes poems:
the way ads read, ferlinghetti’s lines, Dylan
Thomas’s resonant consonants, the way
things looked stones…”


Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Feb. 2009/Somerville, Mass.

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