Also by Louise Landes Levi

SWEET ON MY LIPS
The Love Poems of
Mirabai translated by Louise Landes Levi


GURU PUNK

The Book L
by Louise Landes Levi

Genre: Poetry
Format: Trade Paper
Pub Date: 11/10/2010
Price: US: $ 14.95
ISBN 13: 9781887276559
LCCN: 2010935513
Pages: 104, trim size:, 5.25X8 inches

BUY NOW | EXCERPTS | AUTHOR | INTERVIEW



THE BOOK L, Louise Landes Levi's second full length poetry book from Cool Grove consists of journal entries, poems, photos & l essay - for the most part written on Isla Margarita, Vermont. while on retreat with Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche. Recalling predecessors Philip Whalen and Joanne Kyger, it develops themes of impermanence, romance and the dangers of elitism in (so called) "third world" as its author inwardly explores the relation between "community" (skt – sanga) and the private communion which is the poet´s or this poet’s domain.

The title is taken from the ground breaking work of Dutch Dadaist, Bert Schierbeck (HET BOEK IK) whose Zen Gardens, published in Amsterdam (and translated into English by Charles McGeehan) in the 1960´s was an early introductions of Buddhist thought and practice to the European Avant Guarde.

The Book L is volume one of a trilogy and will be followed by - Hotel Gaia - a collection of retreat & other poems, written primarily in Toscana, IT.(1985-1995) and dedicated to poet visive Franco Beltrametti and finally - A Spiritual Autobiography - (W. Palm beach – NYC 2001), a short autobiographical essay.


ALouise Landis-Levi’s pure intentions, and her uncompromising, heroic effort to realize the true nature of mind, makes her poems a continuous stream of wisdom. — John Giorno


At last, a full-scale collection of LLL’s under-the-radar poetry. An essential gathering of her work. Visionary, musician, translator, L’s work is sui generis, true to her keen & keening mind & deep soul flashes. No recent American poet has so consistently been in the light & shadows, so restless yet so centered. Resistant & resilient in her certainties & questions. Diamond flashes of light in the world & beyond it. I’ve been reading her small books & fascicles & translations for – at last some sense of her work’s range is now available.—David Meltzer



AUTHOR

Louise Landes Levi —poet & translator, musician & traveler. Born on Manhattan Island, she now lives in Bagnore, GR. Italy & on an island to the East of Caracas, Isla Margarita.

A founding member of Daniel Moor’s Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company. Instrumental recordings: Kinnari, Padma & Kyerang, Music for Meditation & Spoken Art Recordings: Kunst is die Liefde in Elke Daad w. Simon Vinkenoog & Oasis, w. J. Bishop O’Brien.

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NOTES AND INTERVIEW

1. THE BOOK L, LLL's second full length poetry book fr. Cool Grove consists of journal entries, poems, photos & l essay - for the most part written on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, while on retreat w. NN Rimpoche. Recalling predecessors Philip Whalen & Joanne Kyger, it develops themes of impermanence, romance & the dangers of elitism in the (so-called) 3rd. world as its author inwardly explores the relationship between 'community' (skt – *sanga*) & the private communion which is the poet's domain.

2. The title is taken fr. the ground breaking work of Dutch Dadaist, Bert Schierbeck (HET BOEK IK) whose Zen Gardens, published in Amsterdam (& translated into English by Charles McGeehan) in the 1960´s was a seminal introduction of Buddhist thought & practice to the European Avant Guard.

• The Book L, 2006 selections of which are available online at Otoliths, Tin Luster Mobile & unlikelystories.org:

• http://the-otolith.blogspot.com/2006/07/louise-landes-levi-nine-sections-from.html

• http://mtdmagazine.tripod.com/louiselandeslevi.htm

• http//www.ulikelystories.org/levi/0808)

It will be followed, in this generous offering, by excerpts fr. Hotel Gaia, an earlier collection of retreat & other poems, written primarily in Toscana, IT.(1985-1995) & dedicated to poet visive Franco Beltrametti & A Spiritual Autobiography (W.Palm beach – NYC 2000), a short autobiographical essay,


MY JOURNALS

My journals travel w. me & are sometimes handwritten & sometimes not. When
the situation is supportive I use my laptop to ‘keep notes’ & to record
important statements, for examples, of others. The classically educated see
my napkins w. Tibetan or Sanskrit or Hebrew calligraphy & say O do not
throw that away. My habit of not throwing away invites the universe to do
so. Countless manuscripts, papers, match boxes, envelopes, discarded. & so
many unsung songs or unscripted poems. But some persist & are rendered in
speech or script.

Being a musician, I carry the melodies internally. Sometimes the lines
manifest as symphonic-like compositions but they are still part of my
peripatetic perspective/ they are written in motion. Being a poet (or
someone *who wld. like one day to be one*, as Daumal said) the word is my
refuge & in some way my destination. So, on my travels, I am always
returning/ to it. I am on the look-out for sign, message & signifier. You
can find your entire life story in the emblem of a truck on the road
(‘mystic’ said the truck), in a road sign, in the headline of a newspaper.
Disinformation can become signal & signifier for you.

Much of my life is spent in the company of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Old
language systems inform my perspective in a certain way which goes way
beyond scholarship. I lived as a ‘nun’ (or ‘solitary practitioner’) for
many years/ the mantras/ became (almost) ‘embodied’/ which is of course the
object of their experiment.

My journals are illegible for others/ I go through them & try to extract
the valuable. Preparing them, I see an internal map/ an internal film
begins to emerge, one I have not seen in my daily ‘pilgrimage’. If you ask
me where I am going, I can’t really reply. I can only say that preparing a
journal for a ‘publication’ brings a new dynamic to the process. I perceive
myself as the object (of the spiritual inquiry) & dissolve in the larger
equanimity. For this, I thank you.

A KEY: I live in a tower in Italy. Most people think I am homeless. You can
see a picture of the tower at www.coolgrove/gurupunk/interview. A beautiful
forest grew on the same property but the trees have been cut down now. When
the owner (behind whose villa the tower rises like a lingam) mercilessly
cut the forest down I knew she wld. get cancer. But I didn’t tell her. She
did get cancer. Trees are alive. The spirits of trees are very powerful. I
once dreamt the tower fell down but it is still standing. When I am in NYC
I have no special place to stay. Special places didn’t manifest there but
many rooms/ & other places did. New Yorkers have been generous w. me. NN is
giving his final teachings in Pedro Gonzales, Margarita, VE. I go there
when I can. The most impressive things abt. the place are 1) the
hermaphrodite & local madman enjoy the respect or at least the tolerance,
w. reference to the mad man, of all 2) when the most dilapidated place in
the town finally fell completely, the local hermaphrodite who is the
hairdresser of course, & her friends had a beautiful tea party in front of
the ruin. Now that’s Buddhism, at least for me.

TANKS & THANGKAS

Margarita Island is considered to be a refuge for the Al Qaeda by the
American Embassy. For students of Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche, it is a refuge of
an entirely different naature. He is told, in a dream, that this island is
‘perfect the dissemination of the Longsal - The Inner Most Essence of the
Dakini - his *ter *or treasure teaching (see glossary). Until 2002, the
island was peaceful, at least as far as this poet/traveler is concerned.
After the failed coup, considered by some to have been a CIA initiative (in
Venezuela), a familiar scenario goes down (a la Avenue D & 3rd street/
NYC). Crack Cocaine invades the island, a silent, unknown enemy consumes
the village life. Some suspect the DEA of deploying techniques used in
other parts of the world to divide & thus ‘subdue’ its inhabitants,
especially the young & the poor.

Chavez is in office. He remains in office despite the above ‘coup’ & other
techniques used, even by the media of the country, to destabilize his
agendas. He gradually implements certain programs for the benefit of the
village, Pedro Gonzales – one of the poorest on the island, which is also
hosting the Buddhist retreat center, Tashigar No.

In the space of a few years, formerly destitute &/or poverty stricken
families have certain advantages, for them, new clothes, bicycles, other
means of transportation – motor scooters – suddenly in use. In such places
– below the equator – it is painfully obvious that planetary finances are
manipulated to the great disadvantage of the general population &
especially the poor & very poor. A 20 dollar bill provides food for a week,
or more.

The Buddhist community has constructed a State of the Art ‘center’ opposite
the poorest community in the Pedro Gonzales Valley, many of the families
without water. For some years this is tolerated but, right fr. the
beginning, the person writing this felt distressed about the situation /
the contrast in life styles, so to speak. As an individual, she endeavors
to buy medicines for those who are ailing in the neighboring community, to
give a young girl, fr. the village, a bicycle, sold, finally by the local
pharmacy 2nd. hand & to organize a book project.

Chavez has made a ‘cultural center’ in the town. There is a small library.
A book project is undertaken, over a period of a few years, text books (of
which the children are in dire need) are given to the library or cultural
center, as it is called. I was thinking Moby Dick or Call of The Wild, but
no, the village children need school books, study manuals. They are given,
through the Chavez programs, the opportunity, for the first time, to go
through school & then to the university FOR FREE. Money is scarce for the
parents of these children – this writer goes to buy these books w. the
librarian, or one of the 5 women who take the job, in alternate shifts –
for many, their only & first means of income. The Buddhists give some cash
to this initiative.

Books are uncovered in stores otherwise stocked full w. ribbons, paper &
barrettes. There are no ‘book stores’ on Margarita Island, at least this
writer didn’t see any. Maybe that’s why the people are so nice. Every once
in a while, furtively, there is a reader. Except at Esther’s, my place,
Casa di Esther. A restaurant/ cum office for me. Esther’s mother is a
writer, Esther is a reader. The local poet, the first translator of Allen
Ginsberg into a Latin American language, now retired, is often dining there.

The author goes around w. the librarians to the towns. Books are the
rarity, no bookstores on the island but there are depots where school books
can be purchased alongside, as stated above; newspapers, colored ribbons,
wrapping papers of all sorts; cakes, notebooks, some very beautiful, etc.
Over 2 year period, we are able to contribute more than 20, even 30 books
to the library. Chavez has established a program that allows all citizens
to go to school for free, until post university – The villagers cannot
afford study materials – they eat for a week or more for the price of one
of the books their children need. We do not buy Moby Dick or The Call of
the Wild in Spanish, no we are buying Chemistry, 101, Join the Military, A
History of Venezuela.

The Librarian is ecstatic. When it is not possible to find books, she buys
a large supply of meat. The village children, who have come along for the
adventure, have to help her carry her supply. The Multi-nationals have come
to Isla Margarita. Cheap food wrapped in plastic, all the rage, for some at
least. I wonder, why doesn’t the GAR buy the LOCAL produce, delicious
vegetables & fruits for their puja. I later learn I am not the only one
getting sick fr. the terrible food wrapped in plastic, industrial poisons.

The cleaning lady, at the gar, the Buddhist center (see glossary) & I are
friends, I’m awake very early & chat w. her for an hour in the morning as
she works. It becomes clear she cannot go home & wash her hands. There is
no water. She cleans our toilets but has no water of her own, INACCEPTABLE.
Discussions follow, with Jasmil. w. Alicia, the secretary, w. Hugo, one of
the guards, yes, in the dharma pure land there are armed guards (PHOTO).

I was once caught in a crossfire, at the very beginning, a battle emerged,
not even sure over what, an armed battle. But like the thief who enters an
empty room, there was nothing for the intruders. Just some incense in the
old cow shed The disappointed thieves watched the endless stream of rented
vehicles & thought some kind of palace was beyond the gate. Yes, the dharma
palace, but it was formless to their probable dismay.

A Russian girl had $50,000 hidden under her tent but who thinks to look
under tents, who speaks Russian? She had a lame daughter. The robbers
disappeared & the guards appeared. It was later discovered that the Russian
woman was pimping out her lame child to the village hungry for affection –
she had to leave *& never come back*, said the master, not unpredictably.
But the robbers weren’t interested in what the lame child had to offer.

Many a discussion ensues. We decide that one tank for Jasmil, the cleaning
lady, is not enough; no, we will get enough money to buy each of the
families, living opposite the GAR, a tank of water. Families w. one get one
more, families without any, get one. The collection takes many weeks. A
poetry sponsor fr. Ukiah Ca. is glad to help. $200 buys a water tank; white
money, the same amount of black money buys 1 tank & 1/2. The first shipment
is a joyous event, a big truck filled w. water tanks take over the road.
They are bright blue. Jasmil is in charge, distributing the tanks. The
shipment when complete will double the amount of water which the village
can consume per shipment of water (see p. 69 ). Chavez delivers free water
to such villages, but the water cannot be stored without containers, & the
containers are expensive, by local standards, one month's salary, at least.

The skeptics among Lord Buddha’s followers are won over. I have neglected
to say.before embarking on this new endeavor, I am overwhelmed w. fear. How
can I organize such an undertaking? That night I dream I am in bed w. Jack
Hirschman, a well-known socialist poet. City Light insisted on writing a
disclaimer to his book. I wonder why? Now he’s poet Laureate of San
Francisco.. I dream of Jack & awake w. the sure feeling that this project
can be accomplished

At least some of these Buddhists practitioners must be dreaming of Buddhist
saints “*The Buddhist saints are the perfect saints” *....( I think I’ve
met Jack Kerouac there in the village on a visionary morning, in the rain –
looked just like him & I had just had a vision of a word in the book he
gave me *‘elohim’ *- wondering abt. the spelling the night before). I only
dream of poets; I dream, in Italy of Gregory, William Simon Vinkenoog even
Franco, here in Venezuela I dream of Jack Hirschman.

In all 15 tanks are purchased. A large lady tells me ‘*Lord Buddha gave me
a tank’*. The people here worship The Virgin of the Vale, a local female
deity, the Madonna morphed into a childless female, white & luminous . NN
remarks that her crown is an exact half dorje (see p. 7). For the villages
NN is a Buddha (see p. 13), at least for the one in question in the first
sentence of this paragraph

Later I go to a Puja, I notice a local girl at the gate, the daughter of
the local polygamist, 19 children in all, w. 2 sisters. It’s a scandal, of
course. The village loves such scandals & enthusiastically invents them
when they are seasonally lacking – but for the daughter, it’s no scandal,
it’s her life.

She recognized NN young in life, she’s been his disciple for years. She met
him on the beach, selling shells. She became his w/o really knowing it –
she spread sun tan lotion on his large body but was forced, by the locals,
at the beach, to stop. More scandal or potential scandal. The guards won’t
let her in. I turn around, remember that in the Mahabharata, Dhurva, one of
the Pandava brothers, refuses to enter the svarga loka, or heaven, w/o his
dog, actually a secret form (of course) of Lord Shiva. I tell the guards
she's my friend, she's a friend of the master & escort her to the teaching
room.

Why has she come? Namkhai Norbu & his wife are giving her a dress, not just
any old dress. She’s the departing Beauty Queen (of the village) & they are
giving her a dress, not just any dress, to appear before the village,
dressed to kill.

*

*The Tantric Buddhist tradition postulates the possibility to receive text
through dream or through the visionary apparition of a letter or series of
letters. The receptor is called a tertan & the text a ter. Namkhai Norbu is
such a being. It is said that the tertan manifests his clarity through the
activity of his sang yum or consort, indeed the absence of the consort can
result in a failure to produce the ter or to receive it. Likewise in the
West the poets & their muses. When the ‘tantra’ moved north, to Tibet in
the 12th Century, it may also have moved East to Dante & his preceptors who
cherished love as the conduit of bliss& its divine milieu, the poem.*

*Nb. Obviously the grey bird wld. fly away & circumstances wld. change & I
cld. not dedicate myself to music as before. When I returned it was all
about compassion – about organizing a water delivery to the village, about
helping the villagers, about avoiding a model of indifferent clerical
hierarchy.*

*I was very nervous about this project, never having attempted anything
like it. When I dreamt about poet activist Jack Hirschman I was in bed w.
him. I often dream abt. the beds I share w. poets & this is not about.
fucking. We are sharing space in the intimate dimension of the bed & the
poem. After I woke I realized I most certainly cld. do this job. Tashigar
finally gave 16 water tanks to the village across fr. The GAR, increasing
their water supply by 2, at least. I felt we should help w. the roads too.
When they flooded, it was disastrous for the villagers. But most of the
Buddhists, the ones in charge said,' No, we’re not involved’ even tho we
used indeed depended on the road. The next time NN taught there, he began
his teaching by stating that helping w. roads is a very meritorious thing
to do, the most meritorious (in the whole canon). The teacher didn’t even
need a bed to know how to reach me. These poems are from my sojourn on the
Isla Margarita (& a certain related territory, by way of muses & musical
scenrios).*

*The above Essay – ' The Tank Project' was written at request of
poet/activist Janine Pommy Vega & is dedicatedto her – Bard Owl 1942-2010 –
thank you.*

***

INTERVIEW: CGP W. LLL

*What inspired you to write Book L?*

I am constantly putting new poems & books together but this was special,
for I visualized the cover long the before the book was complete – to honor
a friend (& translator) of mine & also because I made the book & then the
perfect opportunity to publish it arose.

*Do you feel you are being heretical to the tradition which evidently
sustained you?*

No, I am a 2lst. Century being. My roots are in the Beat tradition & in (a
personal form of) utopian socialism. You cld. also say I have some roots in
the tantric tradition of India – 12th Century Sahaginicinta, et al. & in
the Japanese Court & temple tradition, but as far as this life is
concerned, the former two are those that inform.

*& so?*

& so, I instinctively react against neo-feudalism,
& also subtle imperialist ties. The Tibetans preserved their teaching
within a strictly governed class society. The political & social domains
were not challenged by the monastic concerns – the two factions were at any
rate united in the DL, beyond, reproach.

My vision was nurtured in disaster stricken postwar Jewish communities &
later in the 1960s. To whatever extent the CIA was involved in the dynamic
& appearance of revolution, so to speak, conferring intoxicants for the
rituals & eliminating the powerful when they were too powerful, to be IN
it, was to be affected by the utopian vision it sustained. I took part in
various forms of community
& also played in the lst. East-West fusion orchestra.

It is difficult for me, personally,
to integrate into a body (or 'community’) in which I have no voice – to
contribute to it financially when I can make no decision, regarding the use
of its funds... of course I am very grateful for the teaching & for the
master & do not challenge his decision, but for me, for me personally,
dynasty &lineage (he being the emanation of Drukpa Pema Karpo ...., the
lst. King of Bhutan).
do not really address my sensibility.

I trust that the master is present in my state
& that the work, the real work of the poet, is to manifest that state, on
behalf of sentient beings. A. Clemente, one of NN’s translators, the
principle one, told me that Shelley, the great English poet, was cremated
in Livorno & that his heart did not burn – in the cremated ruins of his
body, the heart was intact – this indicates, in the tradition, a kind
of realization
(Medieval saints, in the Western canon also revealed signs of this sort, at
death, texts were seen printed onto the heart, etc.). Increasingly, I can
only dedicate myself, my practice, to the poem, but, it is an offering, not
really an end in itself, for me& as I have understand fr. the teachers, it
is a path.

*What do you understand abt. the hermetic tradition & its relation to the
poetic word*?

Apparently
the Tibetan conserved an objective sensibility
that literally lived inside of letters & the mind of those capable of
receiving & then deciphering them. Of course, a poet, an ordinary poet,
does not have this precise clarity. A poet works w. images that present
themselves & literally the lines that transpierce, invited or uninvited,
his or her conscious & unconscious field. Even the *terton *receives his
‘tar’, text or *sadhana *in what is considered to be an ‘altered’ state.