About this poet

Dana Levin was raised in Lancaster, California. She received a BA from Pitzer College in 1987 and an MFA from New York University in 1992.

She is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), Wedding Day (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), and In the Surgical Theatre (Copper Canyon Press, 1999), which was selected by Louise Glück to receive the APR/Honickman First Book Prize.

About her debut, In the Surgical Theatre, which also received the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, Glück writes, “Sensuous, compassionate, violent, extravagant: what an amazing debut this is, a book of terrors and marvels.”

In an interview with The Kenyon Review, Levin says, “I’ve come to see that I compose many poems as dramas, enactions. Therefore, pace and volume must be attended to, for essentially I am trying to render the sound of feeling (and/or the pace of thinking).”

Levin has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation, among others. She has previously taught at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and the College of Santa Fe. She currently serves as a distinguished writer in residence at Maryville University. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


Bibliography

Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Wedding Day (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
In the Surgical Theatre (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

The Living Teaching

You wanted to be a butcher
but they made you be a lawyer.

You brought home presents
when it was nobody’s birthday.

Smashed platters of meat
she cut against the grain.

Were a kind
             of portable shrine—

             I was supposed to cultivate a field of bliss,
             then return to my ordinary mind.
                                                     

You burned the files
and moved the office.

Made your children fear
a different school.

Liked your butter hard
and your candy frozen.

Were a kind
             of diamond drill, drilling a hole
             right through my skull―

             quality sleep, late November.


What did it mean, “field of bliss”―

A sky alive “with your greatest mentor”―

I wore your shoes, big as boats,
             flopped through the house―

             while you made garlic eggs with garlic salt, what

             “represents the living teaching”―

Sausages on toasted rye with a pickle,
and a smother of cheese, and
frosting
             right out of the can without the cake―

You ruled
             with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, you raged
             at my stony mother, while I banged

             from my high chair, waving
             the bloodied bone

             of something slaughtered―I was
             a butcher’s daughter.


So all hail to me―

             Os Gurges, Vortex Mouth, I gap my craw
             and the bakeries of the cities fall, I

             stomp the docks―spew out a bullet-stream
             of oyster shells, I’ll

             drain the seas―the silos
             on every farm, the rice

             from the paddy fields, the fruit
             from all the orchard trees, and then I’ll

             eat the trees―
                                   
             I’ll eat with money and I’ll eat
             with my teeth until the rocks
                 
             and the mountains curl
             and my blood sings―
                 
             I’m such a good girl
                 
             to eat the world.

From Banana Palace by Dana Levin, published by Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2016 by Dana Levin. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

From Banana Palace by Dana Levin, published by Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2016 by Dana Levin. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Dana Levin

Dana Levin

Dana Levin is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), among other books. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

by this poet

poem

The mind sports god-extensions.

It's the mountain from which
        the tributaries spring: self, self, self, self—

        rivering up
                on curling plumes
        from his elaborate
                head-piece

                of smoke.

poem
I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Having rowed a little farther away from the cliff

Which is my kind of religion

Adrift in the darkness but readying oars

How can there be too many stars and hands, I ask you

                               —

I would be disingenuous if I said "being
2
poem
It’s a thrill to say No.
 
The way it smothers
everything that beckons―
 
Any baby in a crib
will meet No’s palm
on its mouth.
 
And nothing sweet
can ever happen
 
 
             
2