3 Questions for Donald Levering


1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That
is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

The poetic line distinguishes poetry from prose. The end of a line signals a pause in the reading. Enjambed exceptions to this principle are executed, as any exceptions to patterns in poetry, to create an emphasis. A line is also the unit in which meter is developed. I generally write lines of ten syllables or less; longer lines tend to feel ungainly to me. Another theory of the line is that it is tied to the amount of speech a person can say in a single breath. If I were to use that method, I’d have to turn all my pages sideways because of my lung capacity (segue to question two)…

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human
body? Or between your writing and your body?

The question reminds me of that moment in an early Bill Cosby skit on the dialogue between Noah and God. As God is giving instructions for building the ark, Noah asks, “What’s a cubit?” – The sounds we recognize as words, in our 7,000 or so surviving human languages, are created within the range of utterances possible for the human body. Writing, which preserves and transmits language across generations, tends to be related to the hands, whether it be inscribing in stone, moving a pen across paper, or tapping a keyboard into the electronic machine realm. The late New Mexico poet Keith Wilson said that he experienced a peculiar feeling in his hands when he felt a poem coming on. Others, including Wordsworth, walk out their poems. Me, my tongue swells (just kidding).

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

I dislike that moment when a well-meaning person I’ve just been introduced to learns I am poet and asks, “So what are your poems about?,” or “What kind of poems do you write?” You’d think by now I’d have a little canned summary to recite, but my feeling about the uniqueness of poems bars this survival technique.

Donald Levering is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant in poetry. He holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University. In 2002-2004, he was the Director of the Theaterwork Poetry Reading Series. In 2007, he was an Academy of American Poets Featured Poet in the Online Forum (poets.org). His poetry books include The Jack of Spring, Carpool, Outcroppings from Navajoland, Mister Ubiquity, Horsetail, The Fast of Thoth, The Kingdom of Ignorance, and Whose Body. An interview with him is featured in the 2009 inaugural issue of the New Mexico Poetry Review. Also in 2009, he was featured in the Ad Astra Poetry Project blog. In 2010, he was a featured reader in the Duende Poetry Series in Placitas, New Mexico.


The Treatments

Not for the honey

his back yard hums

with a dozen hives.

Though he’s learned how to harvest

the combs, though jars of it gleam

in their cellar, he nurtures the bees

to treat his wife’s disease.

Her prognosis has swollen

their dwindling days together,

as all their past and future

crowd into her slipping grasp.

Who would guess from his dizzy mien

that he has acquired a tailor’s

dexterity-whenever one

of the creatures escapes

his fingertips, the venom

that gives her relief

is wasted on him.

Even as he tells

of bringing her back from the verge,

his earlobe is swelling.

His eyelashes, like a blind man’s,

flutter as he talks without pausing

about the treatments,

fervent in his faith

to repeatedly thrust his hand

into a jar of bees

to make her walk again.

By its wings he plucks one out,

feels with his other hand

for the healing place,

and presses the bee to her flesh.

Dead bees litter her bedsheet

as he keeps stinging his wife

to lessen their pain.


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