Donald Lev reading at the Mudd Puddle Café – New Paltz, New York – May 17, 2014. Photograph by g emil reutter
Donald Lev attended Hunter College, worked in the wire rooms of the Daily News and New York Times, and then drove a taxi cab for 20 years (with a 6-year hiatus in which he ran messages for, and contributed poetry to, The Village Voice and operated the Home Planet Bookshop on the Lower East Side). His earliest poems appeared in print in 1958 and he started his first small press magazine, HYN Anthology, in 1969.
Among his honors have been a Madeline Sadin Award from New York Quarterly in 1973 and a Life Time Achievement Award from the Catskill Reading Society/Outloudbooks in 2003. He was Distinguished Visiting Poet for the Northeast Poetry Center in Sugar Loaf, NY in July of 2012. In 2008 Outloudbooks brought out his The Darkness Above: Selected Poems 1968-2002 a sampling from the first four decades of his writing. A chapbook, Only Wings: 20 Poems of Devotion was published in 2010 by Presa Press in Michigan, and a new collection, A Very Funny Fellow, was brought out by NYQ Books in February, 2012. Another book, Where I Sit, was published by Presa Press in 2015, and his latest collection, Focus, was issued in 2017 by NYQ Books.
His brief underground film-acting career pinnacled with his portrayal (he wrote his own lines) of “The Poet” in Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 classic Putney Swope.
He lived in High Falls, NY, where he published the literary tabloid Home Planet News (online at: http://www.homeplanetnews.org/
), which he and his late wife Enid Dame founded in 1979.
A Poem by Robert Milby
In Memory of Donald Lev
Donald, you arrived in Spring, during one of our worst depressions;
you left in Autumn, on the cusp of October.
Throughout your life, you wrote your own lines; none could contest your authentic scroll.
You were a living lantern for younger poets; your elder Soul.
You brought the news of the poets, by the poets, and to the poets.
When you lost Enid, she gained you, again; as you reached out to her,
at each poetry reading, whether or not you read her works aloud.
In our Hudson Valley, we kept a place for you at every word banquet.
Each year, we honored you at the coffeehouse in New Paltz, with a summer reading.
Sagacity and wit, lost on the young; but a comfort to the old.
How did you, son of New York City stay in Ulster County, after your great loss?
Poetry. You gave us immortality in a tabloid; words and paper proof that even yesterday’s news,
passed into history, has merit in memory.
We will think of you, at our many poetry readings, where you no longer sit, dozing,
or exacting your urban wit of a true, noble prophet; and laughter of an old, and trusted friend.
Albany Poets Remember Donald Lev: https://albanypoets.com/2018/10/donald-lev-1936-2018/
Talking With a Very Funny Fellow: http://giantstepspress.blogspot.com/2012/07/talking-with-very-funny-fellow.html
What Some Have Said Of The Poetry of Donald Lev
“Writing, crafting poetry that’s lyrical, meaningful and imaginative; that says something about the self and the universe is not as easy as it looks – and I can think of at least two dozen “famous” small press poets who should sit at the feet of Mr. Lev (though he’d probably flick them off with a hand).” –Phil Wagner, Iconoclast
“How to save the planet? From Don Lev’s poems to God’s ear, that’s how.”
“Donald Lev writes poems that are deceptively simple yet infused with a subtle irony that gives them a poignant intimacy. He achieves this through his reliance on directness and honesty. For Lev, the writing is easy, compared to all the living that led to it. Yet we get the impression that his writing is also essential to his ongoing sanity, and this is the redemption of poetry itself in the hands of a master.” -Eric Greinke, Presa
“Apart from the funny business Lev is a poet of thought and theme, though he would doubtless pooh-pooh such a notion. With an unassuming lightness reminiscent of Piet Hein’s Grooks, Lev spins out little dialectical webs that define an ironic persona, self-reflective to a fault, confused and weak in the tangle of every day’s human predicament, yet whose neuroses rest on a broader foundation of affirmation and for whom poetry provides the redemptive charms necessary to get through the day.” – William Seaton
“Donald Lev is a poetic treasure not only here in the Hudson River Valley, but also in New York State, indeed the entire Nation of Poetry & otherwise”. – Dan Wilcox
Donald Lev on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=poet+donald+lev
Some Books by Donald Lev:
Only Wings – http://presapress.com/books/only-wings-20-poems-of-devotion
Where I Sit – http://presapress.com/books/where-i-sit
Focus – https://books.nyq.org/title/focus
A Very Funny Fellow – https://books.nyq.org/title/averyfunnyfellow
Intercourse With the Dead – https://www.abebooks.com/9780917402111/Intercourse-dead-Poems-Downtown-poets-0917402111/plp
The Darkness Above- Selected Poems 1968-2002 – https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=22666312949&searchurl=kn%3Ddonald%2Blev%26sortby%3D17%26ds%3D20&cm_sp=snippet-_-srp1-_-title1
Grief – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3571290-grief
Robert Milby, of Florida, NY, has been reading his poems, public since March, 1995, and hosts four Hudson Valley poetry readings; including the popular series at Mudd Puddle Café in New Paltz. He has published several books of poetry, and two cds. Since October, 2003, Milby and Performance Artist, Carl Welden perform as Theremin Ghosts! Milby reads original ghost and gothic poems, as Welden accompanies on the Moog Theremin. Milby is the Poet Laureate of Orange County, NY 2017- 2019.