Cleveland’s three best known poets are Hart Crane (who lived here early in his life), Langston Hughes (who lived here early in his life) and d.a. levy (who lived here all 26 years of his life). Two other prominent Cleveland poets would be Russell Atkins (born 1926 and still here) and Daniel Thompson (1935-2004). I can’t think of any current Cleveland poets of similar fame, but many of similar talent.
I came to Cleveland in 1977, nine years after levy blew his brains all over his apartment wall with a shotgun at the age of 26. He was basically hounded to death by the Cleveland police and politicians because of his liberal views, his pro-marijuana stance, his poetry, and for reading a minor’s poem which contained the word *fuck* to the minor and a bunch of other folk in the basement of a church with the cops present. They busted him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor — or more accurately (per Wikipedia) “In 1966 he was indicted for distributing obscene poetry to minors. He was arrested again in 1967, and his pressing materials confiscated, prompting a benefit reading on May 14, 1967 on the Case Institute of Technology campus which featured such figures as Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg and the Fugs.”
It’s amazing how those in power fear poets, or at least used to.
On one level levy’s famous because he killed himself, died young and feisty and not-so-very beautiful but edgy. For a while some folk believed he was murdered by the Cleveland police or politicians, but according to his friends he was always suicidal, as evidenced by some of the titles listed below.
He wrote some very good poems, did rather clumsy cluttered collages and some very fine art, and most importantly was the 1960′s vanguard here for the mimeographed self-publishing poetry revolution. All of his output is available for free re-use by anyone because he always wrote *copyrot* in place of *copyright*.
Some of his better known works are The North American Book of the Dead, Cleveland Undercovers, Suburban Monastery Death Poem, Tombstone as a Lonely Charm, and his publishing of Cleveland’s first underground newspaper The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle in 1966-7. In 1968 he also co-edited and wrote for the sole issue of The Marijuana Review.
Here’s an excerpt from a d.a. levy poem I included in Artcrimes #20 (2006):
the soulless men
bullfighters of insignificant stockrooms
mindless phantoms who never possessed a spirit
to gamble with
men with high school television dreams
who cross themselves in rituals of death
who whisper “jesus” before dueling
with their competitors each day
playing war games – becoming policemen
gambling with insanity
they drive their autos
laugh at hippies drink on fridays
go bowling shit on God each day & they die
& they die & they die alone
wrapped in flags
proud of their insanity
& the academic poets
write their cleaned-up dreams for you
pretend it is all beautiful
sitting in a bar
the alcohol confessional
& everyday i sit here
trying to become one of you
trying on those high school dreams
it doesnt work
you dont fit me
- d.a. levy – excerpt from SUBURBAN MONASTERY DEATH POEM
Below are samples from The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle and a VERY un-Buddhist letter (the foto above) from a Buddhist temple in California which shows an amazing lack of Buddhist compassion. The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle material is courtesy of my musical partner Peter Ball of Apartment One.
This blog is simplistic and shallow because I wasn’t here and didn’t know the man, but do know a few of his friends.
A reprint of SUBURBAN MONASTERY DEATH POEM can be ordered for $5 from Crisis Chronicles Press.
1968 foto of levy by Richard Ceasar heavily manipulated by me
from Artcrimes 20
all fotos or fotos of fotos by Smith