d.a. levy, The Madison Poems

                                                                 
levy, d.a. The Madison Poems of d.a. levy. Including Collages, Concrete Poems, a Bibliography, an Essay, and The Suburban Monastery Death Poem. Madison, WI: Quixote Press, 1969.


4to.; mimeograph printed on variously colored leafs; illustrated wrappers; stapled; with 22 loose leaves of varying size and color printed with b+w reproductions of levy’s collages; held in screen-printed envelope. Minor wear at edges of envelope else fine.

The work contained in this posthumously published packet is perhaps the crowning achievement of d.a. levy’s brief but prolific career. It was created over the course of about one month in the Fall of 1968 when d.a. levy briefly left Cleveland, the city with which he was closely identified throughout his life, and went to Madison, Wisconsin where two professors at University of Wisconsin, Dave Wagner and Morris Edelson, had recently made up a position, “Free University Poet-in-Residence,” and asked d.a. to be it.

In the years from 1963 to 1968, d.a. levy produced numerous handmade publications that helped to define the small press resurgence in America. Influenced perhaps as much by the European Surrealists as by the Beats, levy was a dynamic personality and produced work prolifically. The scores of small books and magazines he produced using a rudimentary hand press (and later, a donated mimeograph) were a major influence on the underground press movement, producing scores.  The bulk of this production was given away on the streets; levy saw it as his mission to bring cultural enlightenment to the city of Cleveland. To that end, he established the Renegade Press (later called Seven Flowers Press), "printing sometimes 8 to 16 hours a day for days and days." In addition to his own work, levy printed works by Charles Bukowski, Ed Sanders and others; he also produced small pirated editions of classic texts which had influenced him, including works by Rimbaud, Camus, W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Artaud, and others.

In 1966 levy found notoriety in Cleveland after making a series of public statements in favor of marijuana legalization and against the war in Vietnam. That Autumn, he was indicted by a secretly convened Grand Jury for distributing obscene materials. In January 1967, the indictment was made public and levy was arrested, and subsequently released on bail, along with friend and patron James Lowell, owner of an alternative bookstore which carried levy's work.  In April, 1967, levy was arrested again, allegedly for giving copies of his poems to two teenagers at a coffeehouse reading. Subsequently, a defense fund was organized; donations poured in from poets across the country, and there were "Free levy" demonstrations in the streets of Cleveland. Allen Ginsberg and The Fugs came to Cleveland and gave a benefit reading. Ultimately, the charges against levy and Lowell were dismissed, but the experience left an indelible mark on levy who became increasingly bitter, disillusioned and depressed.

Nonetheless, levy continued his prolific output, experimenting with Concrete Poetry and collage in order to push beyond words toward a more expressive language. Ingrid Swanberg, a friend of levy's who edited a collection of levy's works (Zen Concrete & etc. ghost pony press, Madison, Wisconsin, 1991), wrote that "levy reduced the word to silence. He broke-up, cut-up, shattered, fragmented, pulverized the word in concrete poems, his silence erupting against the death carried by the word and the death carried by the image, as if to throw everything think-able into disruption ..."

By mid-1968, levy had published over 55 books and nearly 30 magazine issues. In October he went to Madison and produced the Madison Poems and Madison Collages and then returned to Cleveland, where his legal and financial troubles continued. Friends found his behavior increasingly erratic and disturbing. He sat in his apartment, holding a rifle, and asked "How symbolic would it be if I blew my brains out?" He burned manuscripts of all his poetry, 300 copies of Tibetan Stroboscope (a collection of concrete poetry), and several original collages, gave away most of his belongings, quarreled with his wife and threw her out, visited friends he hadn't seen in years "to shake hands one last time", and told people he was "leaving Cleveland. I'm leaving the world." Then on November 24, 1968, at about 11:30 pm, levy sat alone in his apartment, put a .22 caliber rifle between his eyes, and pulled the trigger. He was 26.

This publication was assembled between January and March of 1969 by Edelson and Wagner who knew levy’s work intimately and saw the Madison Poems and Madison Collages first hand as they were produced and this publication is in keeping with the spirit and methodology of levy’s own productions.

$1,000 [inquire]