I have a city to cover with lines -- d.a. levy, from Cleveland Undercovers, 1966
It's hard to believe that famed Cleveland poet, publisher and artist d.a levy would have celebrated his 70th birthday this October 29th.
Darryl Allen Levy was born on October 29, 1942 in Cleveland. In the early 1960s, levy (who then went by the name "d.a. levy") was a leader in Cleveland's small press and poetry scenes, writing and publishing his own work as well as that of his friends and contemporaries under his Renegade and Seven Flowers presses.
By the mid '60s levy began attending local poetry events around the city including the Fenn College Poetry Workshop series with CSU Poetry Center founder Lewis Turco. Intrigued by poetry readings he attended while visiting friends in New York City, levy initiated some of Cleveland's first free-forum coffeehouse readings. The Gate Coffeehouse in the basement of Trinity Cathedral across from Cleveland State University was the site of many such readings, one of which led to levy's arrest from a Nov. 15, 1966 reading there where he accepted and then read poetry submitted by juveniles. City officials deemed the work "obscene" and levy was charged with "contributing to the delinquency of minors."
This wasn't levy's first brush with the law over issues of censorship; the Asphodel Bookstore, run by levy's friend, bookseller Jim Lowell, was raided by Cleveland Police earlier in 1966. Several books and poetry materials including those of levy's were confiscated and never returned. Both levy and Lowell were charged with "possession and distribution of allegedly obscene literature." The case attracted national attention drawing supporters such as poet Allen Ginsberg and the musical group The Fugs who later came to Cleveland to perform at a benefit to aid in the duo's legal defense.
levy continued to create his own art and promote other poets and artists throughout the 1960s, leading the "mimeograph revolution" publishing Cleveland's premier alternative newspapers The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle and The Marrahwannah Quarterly. Both showcased the works of local and national poets and artists. He responded to the cultural and political turmoil of the times by creating profound concrete and lyrical poetry often influenced by his interest in Buddhism and mysticsm.
Over time, levy became frustrated with a perceived lack of appreciation for his and others' poetry and art. Coupled with his plea of "no contest" for his earlier arrest in lieu of a prison sentence, levy's behavior grew increasingly erratic. In late 1968 he began to tell friends that he was "leaving Cleveland," and gave away or destroyed much of his poetry/art and personal belongings. Sadly, on November 24, 1968, levy took his own life. He was 26 years old.
The Michael Schwartz Library is committed to honoring his legacy by preserving and sharing his works and related resources on a global level. Over the past 10 years the Library's Special Collections has acquired and digitized hundreds of items by or about d.a. and presents them to the world on the d.a. levy collection in Cleveland Memory. The site is our way of continuing to "cover the city" and the world with his lines.
Happy birthday, d.a.! -- Joanne Cornelius, DPU/Course Reserves Coordinator, Michael Schwartz Library