|Dana Levin, 2012 Visiting Poet
In Socorro, Levin will read from Sky Burial, which is a collection of poems she wrote while mourning the deaths of her mother, father and sister.
“What makes the poems unusual is that during my grieving process I found solace in research,” she said. “I studied cross-cultural burial processes – what happens to the body, Aztec human sacrifice, Tibetan Buddhist gods, forensic anthropology, poems from the dream world. It’s an unusual approach to death and grief in poetry.”
The Visiting Poet Series is sponsored by the Communication, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Department and the Office of Academic Affairs.
Levin said that, as an educator, she enjoys engaging college students and that presenting a poetry reading is an act of teaching.
“Especially with a book like this, with so much research, it is an experience in how do you write poem and what can other cultures tell us about death and grief. I like meeting new people and I love teaching and engaging students who are involved in research. And I’ve never visited the campus, so it’ll be new and interesting.”
Sky Burial was listed one of the Best Books of Poetry 2011 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Library Journal and Coldfront Magazine. Levin is also the author of Wedding Day (2005) and In the Surgical Theatre (1999), which received nearly every award available to first books and emerging poets. A 2007 Guggenheim Fellow, Levin chairs the Creative Writing and Literature Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
Levin grew up in California’s Mojave Desert and earned a bachelor’s from Pitzer College and a master’s from New York University.
In selecting Levin’s manuscript for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, Louise Glück praised the work as “sensuous, compassionate, violent, extravagant,” according to the Poetry Foundation website. In the Surgical Theatre also won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares, the Witter Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the PEN/Osterweil Award.
Levin’s free-verse, image-driven poems grapple with the legacies of both confessionalism and language poetry, by engaging and questioning the self, while using line breaks, punctuation, and syntax as primarily sound-driven tools, according to a bio on the Poetry Foundation website. In a 2008 interview with the Kenyon Review, Levin said, “For me, imagination is a transpersonal force. Its products can come unbidden; when asked to be employed it is not tame, but surprises, frustrates, stuns, and confounds.”
Levin’s honors include awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Library of Congress, the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation. Her work has been widely anthologized and has won several Pushcart Prizes.
– NMT –