Louise Landes Levi is a poet, translator, musician, and performer whose travels have charted an elaborate constellation of mystic and cosmic pathways. For most of 2020 she has been in retreat in Kyoto with little travel to other cities healing herself and working on, among other projects, three books with coolgrove and practicing her music.
Louise Landes Levi is a poet, translator, musician, and performer whose travels have charted an elaborate constellation of mystic and cosmic pathways. A founding member of Daniel Moore’s Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, she participated—from 1967 to 1969, alongside Terry Riley and Angus Maclise—in multidisciplinary drama inspired by Artaud’s research with the Tarahumara, the Balinese Gamelan, Tibetan monastic ritual, and Indian dance. Following studies at Mills College with sarangi master Pandit Ram Narayan, Levi traveled alone from Paris through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to reach northern India for research into its musical and poetic tradition. There, she studied with Sri Annapurna Devi and Ustad Abdul Majid Khan, later becoming Ali Ak Bar Khan’s pupil at the Basel Conservatory of Music and in California. Completing her journey in her birthplace of New York, Levi studied with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, monitoring their Dream House into the 21st century. Levi has translated the work of Henri Michaux and Indian mystic Mira Bai (whose Sweet On My Lips La Monte Young wrote the introduction for) and is responsible for the first English translation of Rene Daumal’s Rasa, or, Knowledge of the Self: Essays on Indian Aesthetics (New Directions, 1982). She has published over a dozen books of her own poetry, most recently Crazy Louise (or la Conversazione Sacra), a series of poems examining sexual trauma from the perspective of an initiate, delineating an oriental interpretation of lunacy to reclaim the notion of the feminine hysterical from its subordinate and abusive occidental role. Levi’s introverted lifestyle and reverence for musical tradition and attainment have left comparatively little space for musical dissemination, but the last decade has seen the reappearance of works from the ‘80s in addition to several contemporary releases featuring contributions from her friends, the late Ira Cohen and Catherine Christer Hennix. Whether alone or with accompaniment, Levi’s elegiac sarangi, bells, and flute exude the feeling of otherworldly, indeed forgotten ritual. Her invocation & interpretive sense of raga, in these recordings, overlaid with spoken and sung poetry, invoke threshold experience, railing against mono culture with a sincerity & presence as sardonic or mournful as it is devotional.
“The relationship between Louise and Mirabai seems divinely ordained. It is hard to imagine a more perfect vehicle for the English language realization of this ecstatic work. At first, I was unable to finish reading even one poem because, each time I began, I received such an overwhelming transmission of spiritual love that my eyes blurred with tears and I could go no further. It was more than enough. Louise’s translations had retained the power of beauty that can far transcend the words that express it. They reminded us that even the words of our greatest poets are sometimes but fleeting reflections of the brilliance that informs them. — La Monte Young
“louise landes levi’s guru punk is sex in the city light years delivered from tv usa’s yuppie mortification. the fast breath of punk and the end- less flow of buddha. like passing beauty in the sub- way. it’s there, it’s gone, it’s there again.” —Thurston Moore,
“Louise Landes Levi’s poems are the union of street smarts and great wis- dom. Her poems sing in the mind, and dance through the heart and throat, and arms and legs, with great clarity and bliss. Louise is Sarasvati, goddess of poetry.” — John Giorno, Giorno Poetry Systems
“Guru Punk, original oxymoron cuts to the essence of Louise Landes Levi’s work. Guru, as devotion combined with Punk– total defiance of conventional mind, together defines the centuries old tradition of practitioners writing their path to realization to find bliss midst the bricolage of samsara’s discarded moments.” —Jacqueline Gens, The Mirror
Published articles by Louise Landes Levi
to be added.
Music Audio: L. Landes Levi with Takehisa Kosugi under isolation spring of 2020, Kyoto
Live performance videos with LLL
More live videos
A poetry reading
Coolgrove Press titles from Louise Landes Levi