miniatures by d.a. levy

The poems in this gathering first appeared in magazines, particularly Quixote, Kaldron and in some of levy's own editions, often very small in print run. Many have been reprinted since his death, particularly in the major edition edited by Ingrid Swanberg which will be discussed at greater length at this site. I call these poems miniatures not only because many (though not all) were done on a small scale, but because they resemble details from, or sketches for, his most important visual poetry and book art, The Tibetan Stroboscope and Zen Concrete. In these miniatures he sometimes follows the concrete or fluxist lines that were in vogue at the time, and shows how well he could handle them, often better than people who got more attention for their work. At times he adapted techniques from Lettrisme (see the Alain Satié poems elsewhere in this collection), and mail art -- but even these freer forms remained more like points of departure than goals. The base or ground for many of these works are Greek texts, one dialect of which was the language of classical scholarship, another of the New Testament of the Christian Bible, with a few Hebrew letters incorporated in them. To a degree he looked to the origins of religion and society as well as its descendants into popular culture. But these also bring in opposites of all sorts. Perhaps most important in this regard is their function as an abstract material out of which to make something else, not texts to be read or deciphered. The same can be said for many of the English found texts used simply as pattern -- but even these present paradoxes, in that some that initially seem no more than pattern should be read while others should not. As usual, the play of positive and negative never finds a point of rest or conclusion in these poems. Current events slip in and out of these poems without dominating them as they did much of the engaged visual poetry of the 60s. The heroic burning of draft records in Milwaukee by anti-war protesters, challenges a joke about Napoleon in one case. The levels of significance in these poems continue to reveal themselves the more familiar with them the reader becomes.

- Karl Young

Go to selected miniatures.

Return to d.a. levy home page.

Return to Kaldron index.
Return to Light and Dust.

This is a cooperative production of Kaldron
and Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.