Judith Katz Levine is a poet who brings in many elements into her work including the jazz flute. Influenced by Miles Davis, Coltrane and other she finds her lyricism mixes with her sense of musicality.
|Judith Katz- Levine|
I had the pleasure to talk to her on my Somerville Community Access TV show Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.
Doug Holder: You studied with Denise Levertov. How did you become with her and her workshops?
Judith Katz Levine: I originally got involved with her because my husband was at MIT and he got into her class. He invited me to meet her , and I had read her recent collection Soul Dance. She invited me to audit the class. At this time she was more political. I loved the class. She was a very passionate poet. And she really had me realize that I could be a poet and focus primarily on my art form.
DH: What were the workshops like?
JKL:We found ourselves meeting at each others homes. It was very informal. At one point she was living in Maverick Square in East Boston. She was very kind but really outspoken about the Vietnam War. She helped us see connections between the military industrial complex and the people sent off to war. She wasn't a pacifist but she was very outspoken about the war.
DH: I know you have had a number of health issue. Pain can spur on poetry. How about in your case?
JKL: Actually I use a lot of alternative therapies to deal with my health issues. I actually use music as an emotional charge for my poetry and heightened awareness for the holistic things I do. Yes I have had some health problems. I don't talk about them too much. I mostly try to move forward. I will say though that writing is a great release for any kind of struggle.
DH : Have you taught much?
JKL: Most of my creative endeavors are between music and poetry. I have taught at Bunker Hill Community College one summer. I haven't done that much work as a teacher because I don't have an master's degree.
DH: What was your life like when you started out as a poet?
JKL: I was married right after college. I worked a lot of odd jobs. I worked at a nursing home, legal services, an early childhood center, and in addition to helping my husband with his acupuncture clinic.
DH: How does your Jewish background figure in your work?
JKL: For the last 10 to 15 years it has become more important. I identify with the male aspect of the Hasidim , with the mens' dancing and singing. I am a Reform Jew. I have done a lot of music with synagogues, and played my flute to accompany rabbis who sing. I am most interested in the link between the link between the spiritual and music.
DH: You have been influenced by jazz, and your poetry is often accompanied by your jazz flute. Can you talk about this?
JKL: I come from a musical family. I had a jazz uncle. He loved jazz-he became an agent at one point. I played flute on my own in college. Then I married my husband who is a jazz sax player--so we just became involved with the music. I feel an affinity for the work of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ellington, etc...We get together with other jazz musicians and jam quite often.
DH: In one of your poems Noticing-- you write about how the poet has to take everything in.
JKL: I think it is an artist's job to function in the world with a heightened sense of awareness. My work as a poet has brought to that height.