By: Art Tart - aka Ms. Art

An event to commemorate the 25th year since the suicide of early, legendary leading-light poet d.a. levy (with proceeds benefiting R.O.C.) was held Nov. 26 at Brady's Cafe coffeehouse in Kent, Ohio. In 1967 in Cleveland there was no 'twentysomething-slacker'-Alternative Nation." Caught in time between the hipster-literary-Beat subculture of the 50's and the eventual mass flourishing of 60's counterculture throughout even the Midwest (still a good two or three years off, the Beatles were yet to release Sgt. Pepper and tales of the mythical "Haight Asbury scene" was just then filtering in from the Coast.). levy and his friends organized poetry readings. published one of the first underground papers anywhere in darkest America. the Bhuddist Third Class Junkmail Oracle. published his and his friends' poetry in small (now coveted) press runs. and more. Making art, music and love. writing poetry. building camaraderie...what could be a more positive force. right? Even if you're not so 'bohemian' yourself, wouldn't one look upon such a Creative Community as providing one's city a certain International Arts status and deserving of active support? Well, SOME did (TRUE patrons of the Arts. hard-core liberals and civil libertarians) but as you might figure, the Cleveland Police Department weren't among Cleveland's more free-thinking citizenry of the day. In fact, the authorities took it upon themselves to harass levy's little scene and levy himself, some have suggested, to his death. With cops laying-in-wait. d.a. levy was to be arrested on charges of "obscenity" following a poetry reading in 1967. The bust became a cause celebre within the Cleveland progressive community as well as within the international poetry scene. with Allen Ginsberg and other luminaries coming to town to read at benefits for levy's defense fund. Ultimately levy would be exonerated of the "obscenity" rap and go on (for a while) to write and publish to ever-widening audiences (and even, for a short period, become a poet-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin). Levy, however, was to always be lured back to the city he loved/hated until on Nov. 24, 1968, the poet was to kill himself, after which a deathly pall was said to hang over Cleveland for years to follow...

At the Nov. 26 Kent reading MAGIC BUS Magazine and friends presented an attempted "channeling" of the pioneering spirit of d.a. levy, with Oddjob, a contemporary of levy's, who himself operated a poetry-coffeehouse in Akron in the 60's. read front rare levy archives. Great job, dude! Kent poet Jim Burris, organizer of the night's festivities, made the point in his opening rap that the event wasn't so much "looking back to faded glories" as hopefully creating a little historical perspective for roaring into the future. R.O.C.'s Randy Lee Payton gave a rap spiraling through references to Temporary Autonomous Zones (T.A.Z.'s), raves and riot grrrls. R.O.C. hopes this poetry benefit will be the first of many such upcoming events at other locales around the country. Bring back the Beats!

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