A QUICK LOOK INTO THE EGYPTIAN STROBOSCOPE, A BOOK WRITTEN
collaboratively by d.a.levy and D. r. Wagner in 1966.

LE STROB EGYPTIANE:
Or
Relaxing the language to acquaint it with various annihilation techniques. Making stew of the Egyptian Book of the Dead by floating it from Lake Erie to Niagara Falls.
Iconography border blur splatter aerobic dissection techniques used in the mid 1960ís to facilitate passage from ancient rites to multiple rebirths in the middle of the twentieth century.
Maps for the word weary.
An astral voyage into the neon-illuminated lavatories of the Egyptian Underworld. A vehicle.

1966, Khu-in-Oho and Ra-en-N-Ra, d.a.levy and D.r. Wagner respectively, are spending an afternoon in the living room, cum studio, of levy's East Cleveland apartment. We are in the flames of creativity. I had taken the bus from Niagara Falls, New York to Cleveland, Ohio to spend some time with levy. Both of us were publishing mimeographed magazines, chapbooks, experimenting with the medium, sliding with delight toward the thrall of the international "concrete" poetry scene. Jim Lowell's legendary Asphodel Bookshop, then in the Cleveland Arcade building (an early 20th century covered arcade) and one of the points of the literary compass, had alerted us to the intense activity in this area of writing internationally that we had been pursuing on our own. We were reading, making and publishing works focused on the edge of language and were intensely interested in any and all possibilities connected with it.

levy's big paintings leaned against the wall full of an energy I had not seen before. Smaller works made with inks and paints also occupied space. The mimeograph machine was in the small sitting room off the living room. We were sitting on the floor. We were both extremely interested in both eastern and western religions. The afternoon was fair and we were laughing a lot as we talked about these interests as well as our views on poetry, concrete and otherwise.

[d. a. levy was the most well read person I have ever met. He was well versed in eastern religions. He was intimate with the literature of Zen Buddhism from Huang Po to Alan Watts. He had read and could make exacting distinctions among Hindu Tantras as translated by John Woodruff. Tibetan Buddhism found him capable of making subtle distinctions between Buddhist and Hindu Tantras, extremely conversant with the life and teachings of the Great Tibetan Saint, Mila Repa, familiar with Evans-Wentz translations from the Tibetan and able to cite definitions from Lama Anagarika Govinda's "Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism" and "The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy". He had read virtually everything he could on the subject. He presented me with a number of pamphlets published in India by C. M. Chen covering such subjects as "Commentary on Tantric Ritual of Avalokitesvara (White and Red)", "How To Transmute Human Consciousness To Buddha's Wisdom", "Distinctions Between Buddhist and Hindu Tantra" as well as Gerald Heard's beautiful pamphlet on "Training For The Life Of The Spirit" and Harrold Schoppereal's "Lessons In Advanced Perception." Clearly his knowledge was immense.

My own interests at the time encompassed Antique Egyptian Religion and ritual, Zen Studies, and Tibetan practices. levy possessed copies of the Budge translations of The Book Of The Dead, Egyptian Magic, and various other titles from the extensive texts Budge had translated for the British Museum. I too maintained a decent library on the subject. When levy and I met, discovering our mutual interests in this area, if was powerfully significant to me. I had found someone to whom I could talk to but who was also a poet, a publisher, etc. To find another being as intensely interested in language as I was validated by own activity and brought us extremely close together in a myriad of ways. I know levy felt the same way. In the language of the time, we were blown away totally.]

After some discussion we began to play with sounds and combinations of phrases dealing with Egyptian and Buddhist deities and began a back and forth verbal dance that initiated the book.

To attempt a complete unpacking of the STROBOSCOPE text would require much more space than this article will allow and I am not sure that thirty three years later, I would even be capable of such hermeneutical exercise. Rather, I will offer an overview of the sections of the book and intersperse them with anecdotes and less weighty recollections

I don't recall how long we worked that first day. I don't recall that either one of us was very conscious of time. I do recall we worked most of the afternon. The #1 section of the book is the result of this exercise.

The text developed over a period of about six or seven months. When I returned to Niagara Falls levy and I continued to write and mail sections back and forth to each other. Sometimes we would add material to sections or change it. There were no constraints or borders. The language continued to permute. levy added some visual and verbal jokes. e.g. "RA TRANSIT SUN LINES."

[One of my favorites was in section 5c, at the end of the more textual (i.e. readable) material, where levy writes:
"(the greater & lesser cycles of the gods)
BMT - HARLEY RA - BARLEY KHAT - CHARLEY HORSE
HONDA -   -   TRIUMPH - PHAT   -   SUN MOTORS INC."]

Section two of the text is a collaborative effort and winds in and out of both our voices and runs a gamut from humor to some serious updating of specific texts and chants. The "soul notes" speaks to various deities and some of the images in the Vision s section are lyrically formed, filled with intimate references and personal nonsequittur visions.

I don't know who did the drawings included in the text. I suspect it was levy.

[The only other person who might have drawn them would be Grady Jones who did the silk-screen scarab on the cover and interior. Jones never mentioned doing anything else in regard to the text.]

Section three appears like an underworld view of the overworld with a section by levy using the name of the Egyptian Sun God, RA as the basis for sound changes in languages other than English. This is written partly tongue in cheek. The vignette is intended as a visual including the (.:.:) section with inserted text. The section continues with references to the Book of The Dead (BOD). Again, we try not to loose the present while traveling in the past.

[In his introduction to my text The 18th Dynasty Egyptian Automobile Turnon, (originally published by press : today ; niagara, my own press in Niagara Falls, NY and later republished in a more elaborate edition by Fugitive Press, Pasadena, CA) levy informs us that in order to talk about the other side, one must return from the other side. I think perhaps in this section we fought that reality desperately, to no avail. It was tantamount to storming heaven, always a lost venture.]
Section four opens with levy inventing a ritual space and procedures utilizing and simultaneously mocking the mannerisms of the BOD. The titles of the interior numbered episodes in the section were levy's inventions and show his zany humor very well. The visions bounce back and forth as fast as we could make them do so, as we worked to "STROBE" the text, so that the information moved forward in a seemingly stroboscopic manner while flashing from ancient Egypt to the present day. It was becoming obvious to us that the language must collapse or change form radically to continue. Neither one of us were willing to let go of the text quite yet. In part 5 the e.streetwalkers telescope 5bee I ask the reader to insert their own drawings, realizing that they are probably as powerful as particular Egyptian amulets. Just before this section we asked the traveler/reader "How do you justify your existence? " "Well, I talk to people.", is the reply. The form is the same as the BOD uses in its inquiries of the soul, just less pretense here.

It is here that the text really breaks with three pages of litanies by levy that repeat themselves into oblivion. In section 6 I ask levy to spell something correctly, (rite). He includes my note to him to preserve the immediate presence of the vision. The section ends with the statement "all   is   ba    ...     lone    ' E    " .

Section 7 is barely able to hold on to the idea of lineal thinking. It doesn't work any longer. Nothing works. Not even "good 'ol physical body contact". Sound predominates then quits for the visual.

From here to the section titled "THE YEAR OF COMING FORTH BY DAY & THE CHAPTER OF CLOSING THE MOUTH OF LITTLE ORPHAN OSIRIS ANNY" only fragments of statements or words are used.

That section ends with the statement "OF THIS CHAPTER BE RECITED OVER OR FOR THE LIVING HE SHALL COME FORTH BY DAY & PUKE ON YOU & STOMP YOU TO DEATH...". This work is not written for the living. It is part of the other side.

The Index verifies this. It consists of collaged, multi-overprinted sheets glued together and mostly unreadable.

We included a bibliography for the curious.

I don't know if the STROBE was successful. It did sell out the first edition and levy did a less elaborate second edition. I no longer have a copy of that second edition. In looking at the book after all this time, it is still compelling and its energy still riveting for me.

This kind of communication exploded language for me and allowed me to more beyond its borders. My current work involves visual pieces that sometimes include text and are often text driven. These usually include many references to art history and religious history. My textual poetry is lyrical and explores emotional states. Occasionally I work with language for sound only or in forms that allow the breath to explore body rhythms and/or create particular motions, as in dancing. I am still writing lyrics for musical compositions and occasional music as well.

This short article is an extremely sketchy overview of the Stroboscope. It is possible to unpack the work almost line by line and the middle sections of the book are full of interesting and rich material. Perhaps time will permit me to look at the work more fully in the future.

D. R. Wagner
Sacramento, CA
October 1998


Web-worker's note: This essay proved an odd journey into a new form of "destructive prose": Wagner sent me several copies by e-mail and one on disk that had sections missing and other faults. I attempted to scan the hard copy, but the type Wagner used was unreadable by my OCR software and produced nothing but odd scrambles of letters and symbols, including smiley faces and playing card suit designators. I then lost the hard copy and had to get another. Since Wagner's foot notes make up about half the text, I decided not to put them in hyperlinks, but to include them on the same page, in brackets, indented and in a different color. The tenor of 60s mimeo moves onto the web in strange, and at times appropriate, ways...

Karl Young
Lake Michigan Coast
July, 2000


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