To me, levy was something like the soul of the small press movement of the 60s, and the largely unacknowledged patron saint of its more broadly based continuation in the 70s. To some extent, this may be a personal response, since I stumbled into mimeo and low-skill-level letterpress publishing on my own in the 60s, and after getting a sense of the scene, felt his presence when I moved into cottage-industry offset in the next decade. In some ways, the early phases of publishing on the net, starting with ftp in the pre-web days, seems much closer to the spirit of the 60s and early 70s than to the strange funding wars, slicker than slick production methods, and hegemonic clique structures of what still gets called alternative publishing in print in the 80s and 90s.
levy's "little mags" were confluent with his own book art, which can't be clearly separated from his poetry, presented either on the page or in performance. With the possible exception of bill bissett, I can think of no one who integrated the limitations of inexpensive production into the work, making it an inherent part of the art. The confluence extended beyond his own poetry, giving the work of other people whom levy published something of the quality of collaboration. He also pirated some classics in his mags, making them collaborations of a sort as well.
The first two entries at this site come from THE BUDDHIST 3rd CLASS JUNKMAIL ORACLE, his last magazine, and from the last issue of that mag, published in September 1968. The first entry is a collage that includes many characteristics of his late work: an intense cramming together of erotica and damaged or obliterated text, aggressive humor and paradoxes, clichés and standardized icons, ranging from post marks to the perennial Hand of Fatima/Dharma Eye and an Indochinese stamp, a unity of denial and affirmation. In one of my favorite paintings by Kenneth Patchen, that poet writes, "ALL AT ONCE IS WHAT ETERNITY IS" [you can find this painting in the Patchen survey at this site]. Patchen's statement suggests the subtext of much of levy's late work.
The second page presented here is the editorial for the last issue. In addition to showing some of the character of late levy production (splotchy typewriter copy balanced against a simple drawing and dense but rhythmic print collages, partially self-obliterated through the process of first-generation photocopying to make the original collage), I take this statement as preparation for his suicide. He is clearly cutting ties, and doing so emphatically. "all mail received after OCT. will probably be burned unopened" - that's pretty decisive.
Last editorial, August-September 1968
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This is a cooperative presentation of
Ghost Pony, Kaldron On-Line and
Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.