SYNAPSE ESSAY THE ELEVENTH: Cleveland Concrete / by karl kempton

This article brings to light a group of individuals in Cleveland, Ohio out of which came the first American anthology of concrete poetry, cleveland concrete, 1966.(1) By American I mean American-published and American-only concrete poets. All other American-published anthologies of that period were internationally-edited and thus international concrete poets dominated all the collections. Only the Bory anthology from New Directions contained more than the usuals. Of the Cleveland concrete poets, d.a.levy is best known and in some circles a major figure whose story in concrete poetics remains to be fully researched and illuminated.

This stature and thus the long cast of his shadow has hidden the others of Cleveland, lexical and concrete poets, in varying degrees and for various reasons, none of which are excusable. One of several omissions in this gap-toothed history clearly shows that d.a.levy published many individuals’ first book of concrete poetry, most prior to 1967. His voluminous national and international correspondence and mailings of publications to international and national concrete poets shifts the question mark from ? to 


afloat in this void of omissions in the anthologies and commentaries. Only one poem of levy’s appeared in these anthologies, the New Directions’ Bory anthology, Once Again, 1968.

Russell Atkins wrote / composed and published lexical-sound poem objects years before concrete poetry was fully-formed. Of the many fields of his polymath life of creativity music and poetry were primary and undifferentiated.(2) During the last decade academia has illuminated a few of his lexical-sound objects. Craig Dworkin’s web site eclipse gathered and continues to gather his works.(3) Two books provide poems, including surviving pre and concrete like era poems, music, and his important “A Psychovisual Perspective for ‘Musical’ Composition” initially published in his Free Lance magazine in 1955. This manifesto I think, feel, and see may be applied as a frame for his visual poetic. Academic study has not, as yet, provided a context for Atkins within the concrete poets of Cleveland, nationally, or internationally.

rjs was 18 when he published cleveland concrete. The following quote is from an email regarding the Cleveland concrete poets he published:

myself, kent taylor, d.a., jacob leed, mimi, don thomas, dagmar, tom lackamp, malcolm hall, grady jones, claudia van tyne, and joe walker....grady jones was a cleveland artist and friend of all of us, joe walker was a cleveland poet and editor of the mimeo poetry mag “The Beginning"....jacob leed, a professor from Kent State, and don thomas from Streetsboro were both published area poets; i later published a much larger volume of concrete from Don Thomas titled "Swamp Erie Blues"...tom lackamp and malcolm hall were both local poets that i knew from CSU who probably frequented the Gate coffeehouse; i included some of Malcolm's work in other collections i published; he eventually moved to the southwest....i don't know claudia van tyne; i assume her contribution was forwarded to me by d.a....meanwhile, dagmar was levy's wife, and mimi was a girl i was living with at the time…

VISUAL TEXT ART, an introduction

The following is a brief outline of American visual text art, as I have come to know it, in order to place the Cleveland group within its proper context. [For a more detailed overview see my a history of visual text art, which is referred to in earlier issues of Synapse International and can be downloaded gratis here.(4)]

Modern art’s visual poetry and word painting beginning dates remain hard to pin down. Scholars on the subject remain inclined to overlook works created before 1909, some even begin with 1912.(5) Scholars of visual poetry to date also seem to remain neglectful of word painters. Thus, some point to Marinetti in 1909 initiating Italian Futurism with its visual poetic and to Apollinaire in 1914 with his first ideogramme, “Lettre-Ocean,” and his later posthumously published collection of Calligrammes composed until his death in 1918. They ignore Henri-Martin Barzun (who mentored Apollinaire until their break) whose visual poetry may have begun as early as 1905, if not earlier. By 1913 he completed his elegant, multi-voiced (poeme simultané) typewriter visual poetry epic, L’Orhéide, consisting of 720 pages.(6) L’Orhéide is a visual kinetic work full of, “choruses, dialog, songs and unisons; also soliloquies, fragments of prose, pure sounds and even noises” (from his son, Jacques Barzun). WWI stopped its planned 1914 publication. [See the previous edition of Synapse International for more on Barzun, including some digital re-versionings by artist Darren Marsh.]

Regarding word painting, or its infancy, Braque painted his first symbol on canvas in 1909. The Russian, Larionov, in 1910, painted complete words and sentences on canvas. Goncharova, his partner, painted the first wordless word painting, “The Four Evangelists” (1910-11).(7) They, however, were not the first. Hidden from viewers for decades were the works of Hilma af Klint of Sweden, 1000 paintings and countless works in her voluminous notebooks. Beginning in 1906 she painted her first abstract paintings, fully integrated iconographic symbology and word painting master pieces seven years before Kandinsky. Why she hid her works is too long of a narrative to roll out other than to say the works were highly spiritual. She was a consistent seer painter, unlike Goncharova, and a Theosophist. The Russians, from 1908 until Stalin, created a massive and significant body of visual poetry, word paintings and collaborative visual poetry and visual text art books.

Arthur Wesley Dow taught students destined to become members of the Stieglitz Circle, Pamela Coleman Smith, Max Weber, Charles Martin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Within the context of the avant-garde to come, Dow taught that art had a potential to capture the spiritual harmony coursing through everything, that art was also a social responsibility for uplifting society (keep this in mind when I discuss the Cleveland poets). He was a participating member of gatherings at the influential Baha’i Green Acre, as was Fenollosa, whose Japanese translations through Ezra Pound informed founders of Concrete Poetry. Through this center flowed the ideals of the Baha’i faith, Transcendentalism, Theosophy, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions that were subgroups of one of the former. Later, another future member of the Stieglitz Circle, Marsden Hartley, would find work there and become greatly influenced by these ideals.

American visual poetry publication began within the Stieglitz Circle with the 1914 publication of a pyschotrope by the Mexican immigrant, Marius de Zayas. He is a significant figure for American-English visual poetry and visual text art with his pyschotrope influence on Apollinaire and Picabia before WWI, influencing others into the 1920s, and his editing and co-publishing of 291 Magazine. The late 1912 or early 1913 portrait drawing of his friend Agnes Meyer is an early psychotype example;(8) another, published in Camera Work, October 1914, is of his friend Picabia.(9) This new style influenced Picabia and other dada artists in symbolic portraiture. Additional Zayas psychotypes were published in Camera Work.(10)

Zayas published the first American visual poetry if one does not accept pyschotropes as a visual poetic but as visual text art, other visual text art and ideogrammes by Apollinaire and Picabia’ s Machine Drawings influenced by Zayas. Or, if one accepts Pamela Colman Smith’s iconographic art illuminations of the tarot deck influenced by Japanese art, it began in 1909.(11) Members of the Stieglitz Circle, Arthur Dove, John Martin, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley, created many word and iconographic paintings later in the 1920s and onward. Georgia O’Keeffe began her iconographic paintings around 1935 and continued until her death.

Poets William Carlos Williams and e. e. cummings, famous for his poetry’s visual typographic gymnastics, were associated with the Circle. cummings was himself a painter but it seems never a word painter, remains an influential force in visual poetics to this moment. Williams credits Demuth, one of Williams’s few lifelong friends, for introducing him to the New York avant-garde, including the Stieglitz Circle, and for teaching him about modern painting. He also introduced him to the Arensberg Salon. Demuth painted a number of important visual text works he called Poster Portraits (1924-1929): “Dove,” (Arthur Dove), “O’Keefe,” “Duncan,” “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold” (Portrait of William Carlos Williams), and “Love Love Love” (Portrait of Gertrude Stein). Other paintings contained visual text.(12) William Carlos Williams selected a painting by Davis, who had published art works in small magazines and The Masses, for the cover of his 1920 book, Kora in Hell, Improvisations.

e. e. cummings and Davis were friends. As cummings was moving into his mature style, so too was Davis, whose works in the twenties took on a look and feel of what became concrete poetry but in large-scale color. Both were applying their own unique insights to the poem or the painted word. At this time, as far as I know, there is little or no commentary on any influence echo chamber or ripple effect they had on each other’s works and insights. Davis became the pop of Pop Art and anticipated Concrete Poetry.

An aside: in the 1920s, Kenneth Rexroth composed a number of Cubist-influenced poems ranging from subtle to obvious throughout two books, The Art of Wordly Wisdom (1920-1930) and A Prolegomenon to a Theodicy (1925-1927). The visual poem within this group, “Fundamental Disagreement with Two Contemporaries,” is dedicated to Tristan Tzara and Andre Breton.

The fundamental idea Alfred Stieglitz pushed was a unique American vision as opposed to the European. William’s book, In the American Grain, came out of this call and seeking. Thus, the irony that Stieglitz and those of the Circle who migrated to New Mexico or visited, missed seeing a new visionary American art in bloom evolving among the First Peoples of the Southwest Pueblos. With access gained to dominant culture art materials they began their unique iconographic paintings in a cross-cultural pollination. Some say the Kiowa of the Plains were the first such painters. Another of these types are the Plains’ ledger paintings beginning around 1860. Nevertheless, iconographic painting spread throughout the First Peoples beginning in the 1920s in part because the Santa Fe Indian School accepted students of the First Peoples’ Nations creating a lush yet ignored art. Members of each nation created distinctive expressions based on the multiple millennia old deep roots of their symbols and aesthetics. The American avant-garde and its scholars ignore/d such work.(13)

Max Weber was removed from the Stieglitz circle because Stieglitz felt he remained too European, and Weber had a falling out with Stieglitz over the 1913 Armory Show. Two works by Weber were painted during this time are of interest: “Avoirdupois,” 1915,(14) and “Slide Lecture at the Metropolitan Museum,” 1916.(15) Both can be read as mechanical portraits within the context of the Stieglitz Circle influences through Zayas, Picabia, and Duchamp. Weber took the idea of their portraits and shifted from the Stieglitz Circle’s ironic caricatures, and pre-dadaesque posturing to his Cubist theories. “Avoirdupois,” the more straightforward work of the two, is based on the English system of weights and measures. The second work, of 1916, one where he applied his fourth-dimensional theories, conceptually bridges the physical and metaphysical spectra or folds them into a unit that leaps above, so to speak, the machine-based works of Duchamp and Picabia, whose works today are better known than this one by Weber. This I also consider a painted text artwork, the text and images moving at the speed of light towards the screen. At this time he was teaching and using such a projector. Was his moment of “Aha!” while lecturing with the device, or was he flooded during a quiet pause?

Marsden Hartley was a painter, poet, and writer not only nationally important in word and iconographic painting but also perhaps the first visual text artist schooled in Cleveland. It may not be surprising he created unique painted text work, but it was a long haul to the new beginning in late 1912. He was 35. Born in Lewiston, Maine, and raised in Cleveland, he graduated from Cleveland School of Art. There he was introduced to Emerson’s works; he carried the Essays with him for five years. After private lessons and five years of art-school training in New York, he returned to his place of birth in 1906 to paint impressionistic landscapes. In 1907 he got a handyman job at Green Acre, the significance of which was previously mentioned. There he was introduced to new ideas and the older ideas, such as those of Emerson and Thoreau, which now acquired a greater depth and context. After moving around and developing neo-impressionistic landscapes some called mystical, Hartley met Stieglitz, who gave him a one-man show in 1909. Seeing the new art at 291, he wanted to see more; “This room was probably the largest smallest room of its kind in the world — certainly then — probably now.”(16) He participated in Stieglitz’s 1910 Younger American Painters exhibition that included, among others, Max Weber, Arthur Dove, John Martin, and Edward Steichen.

After his new start, Hartley went to Berlin in early 1913, followed by his important visit to Munich to meet Kandinsky. He also met Frans Marc and Paul Klee. They liked his paintings but did not understand them. Meeting and talking with Kandinsky reenforced his use of spiritual iconographics. The meeting also encouraged him to write an article favoring spirituality in art, opposing those whom he looked upon as materialists, that they did not rise into the intuitive to express material subjects. These were painted visual text art with archetypical iconographics, two series that insured his place in American art: The German Paintings and Amerika.(17) The former, a younger archetype compared to the latter, were sparked by German solider uniforms and military symbology. Amerika, sparked by American Indian artifacts studied and absorbed consciously and unconsciously from visits to major European collections of American Indian artifacts, was the first such works by a non-First Peoples individual.(18)

After the war, Hartley traveled to and lived in various places before returning to Maine. Before Berlin, he went to the Southwest. In New Mexico he preferred Santa Fe to Taos. In both settings he attended First People’s dances that at that time were difficult for non-First People to witness, unlike years later; also, the First Peoples were not popular and remained under cultural attack by their oppressors. Because the federal government was trying to destroy First People culture, these dances were a target. He wrote an article defending their culture that appeared in the January, 1920, issue of Art and Archaeology and was reprinted in his book, Adventures in the Arts, a collection of his writings that appeared in publications such as Camera Work, Dial, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, and Yankee.(19)

Hartley turned away from text and iconographic-dominated work generally painting landscape. Nevertheless, several works within the frame of our topic were painted. His body of work earned him a distinguished, high position among American painters. Some of the later signature iconographic works were “Morgenrot” (Dawn), 1932;(20); “Eight Bells Folly Memorial to Hart Crane,” 1933;(21) “Tollan, Aztec Legend,” 1933;(22) and “Sustained Comedy,” 1939.(23) The Crane Memorial was a tribute to his friend’s suicide, both with roots in Cleveland. He continued to paint and write into until 1943, the year of his death.

The 1940s saw the developments of concrete art and concrete music. Concrete art was a throwback to Constructivism reacting against Dada. Concrete music, electronic music, and minimalist abstract music developed in part with the invention of new recording devices allowing the composition of sonic clusters and sculptures. Many of their music scores are visual text art. John Cage’s music and silence, in part influenced by Japanese culture and zen, formed additional concepts for avant-garde music that was embraced by the Fluxists. It would also influence a major Japanese concrete poet, Seiichi Niikuni, thus forming an example of one of many cross culture mixing echo chambers. During the 40s Youngstown, Ohio born Kenneth Patchen, a lover of jazz, wrote a number of poetic novels, some dense with a new American typographical imagery forecasting the coming of concrete poetry and most of its forms. After moving from the East Coast to California in 1951, he began his picture poems which he continued until his death. These are better known than his earlier typographical wonders. He was and remains a major influence on many American lexical and visual poets of the so-called underground or street including those in Cleveland.(24) Among visual poets his works are better known than the word and iconographic paintings of the Stieglitz Circle. Another composer of a visual poetic was Paul Reps, author of many zen calligraphic poem books. Neither are mentioned nor are their works sampled in concrete poetry anthologies and historical commentaries. Reps was also an influence on many visual poets including those in Cleveland.

Concrete poetry “began” in three centers, two European and one Brazilian, between 1953 and 1956, each claiming to be the official originator. The formal founding occurred with a meeting of these interests in Ulm, Germany, 1956. It developed quickly into an international poetry movement with many little magazines full of international works. Concrete poetry may be looked upon as a fission poetry exploding language into its parts for composition from particles of language to word/s. The initial, classical concrete poetry was composed in arrays influenced by, though not widely acknowledged, concrete art. It was and is considered a typographical-only poetic with the occasional hand written addition or hand written poem. International Fluxists joined the movement adding their own accents and conceptual art ideas in the 60s through the 70s.

CLEVELAND and the graciousness of concrete

It's little-known that the first American concrete poetry anthology is the cleveland concrete anthology, published by rjs in 1966. Instead, most point to the Williams’ Concrete Poetry Anthology (1967). Here is a list of concrete poetry anthologies published in the States after 1966: The Chicago Review Anthology of Concretism, edited by Eugene Wildman, 1967; Concrete Poetry An International Anthology, edited by Stephen Bann (Beloit Journal), 1967; An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, Something Else Press, edited by Emmett Williams, 1967; Once Again, New Directions, edited by Jean-Francios Bory 1968; and Concrete Poetry: A World View, Bloomington: Indian University Press, edited by Mary Ellen Solt, 1970. All are all internationally dominated, with few Americans. No one from Cleveland appears or is mentioned in any concrete poetry anthology except levy in the Bory anthology. And the highest treason of all -- no mention whatsoever of Kenneth Patchen. levy’s appearance in Bory’s Once Again seems traceable to the 1966 concrete poetry exhibition in Paris in which works by levy and d.r.wagner were displayed.

The Great Lakes are the American and Canadian fourth coasts. Cleveland from the end of 1964 to the late 60s was the center of American and Canadian concrete. Another American pre-concrete poet with roots in concrete and electronic music, polymath Russell Atkins, still lives in Cleveland. Before concrete poetry was a formal visual poetic, he had published in the late 40s and early 50s a handful of pre-concrete poems (composed on a typewriter), and a manifesto on music, with important concepts. One such idea is that sound is a sculptural object visible to the mind’s eye. His manifesto is not a theoretical possibility. Before writing it his pre-concrete era poems, which are seen objects, were published. He mentored d.a.levy and Kent Taylor who in turn mentored rjs, Tom Kryss and others. From what they learned from Atkins, levy and Taylor added much more from concrete poetry magazines available in the now famous but gone Asphodel Bookstore run by Jim Lowell. levy published many American and Canadian concrete poets’ first book. He died in 1968 by suicide. A minority report suggests death by police assignation which provides a foreshadowing of the dark political and racial shadow over Cleveland during this era. The American-Canadian center of gravity shifted to Toronto and eventually other centers of visual poetics formed in part because of Canadian government support of arts and literature.

d.r.wagner had already moved to Sacramento earlier in 1968 from where he would drive to be mentored by Kenneth Patchen in Palo Alto. In 1970 Kent Taylor moved to San Francisco to free himself of the highly negatively charged political and cultural dynamics of his native city. Joel Lipman in an email exchange points also to a shift in the center of gravity of poetry within Cleveland from street to university begins at the moment of levy’s death.

Early 1963 Kent Taylor wandered into the newly-opened Publix Book Mart. He had just returned to Cleveland when the call to poetry eclipsed medical school. There he found Free Lance, a small press magazine. Given the quality of poetry and numbers of established poets without hesitation he assumed the independent small magazine came from New York. Surprise may be too understated of a word discovering it was published in Cleveland. The phone number for the co-editor/publisher began a series of events leading him into the flourishing local poetry scene and what evolved separately into the Cleveland concrete poetry expression. Unknown, however, Cleveland’s concrete had already been in motion more than a decade prior by the publisher-coeditor of the magazine and also the name of the Cleveland poetry workshop where Kent met d. a.levy through the graciousness of Russell Aktins, a graciousness Kent remembers fondly to this moment. Atkins I consider the foundation of Cleveland Concrete.

Kent’s surprise may or may not be larger than mine learning of Russell Atkins, another I’ll call a m.i.a, missing in action, among concrete and visual poetry “histories.” Such “histories” are often more an assertion of lineage, than historical overview. Moreover, within the concrete poets of Cleveland, Atkins is not the only unmentioned. Mention concrete poetry of Cleveland, d.a.levy almost without exception will be named. All others, unless one is familiar with the literary underground of Cleveland during the 1960s into the early 70s, continue as unknowns or ignoreds. The first American anthology of concrete poetry remains essentially forgotten or ignored. A copy of it costs 900 dollars which I am unable to afford (nor I suspect are you) and thus can't ruminate on it, nor share examples. The William’s 1967anthology is available for 125 dollars, Ellen Solt’s Concrete Poetry, A World View, 100 dollars.

[the L  L  L]

A Foundation of Cleveland Concrete

was laid down by Russell Atkins, in my opinion. The measure of his mentoring and influence on the poetics of Cleveland and its region is beyond the scope of this sketch. The focus here is pre-concrete era, concrete era with the overlapping visual poetry era poems by Atkins and those in Cleveland he directly and indirectly influenced. Ohio as a state and the city of Cleveland are central to American visual poetics and visual text art. First in Cleveland mentioned above was Marsden Hartley. Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) was born and raised in Youngstown.

Russell Atkins was born in Cleveland, 1926, and raised by his grandmother, mother and aunt. Early he showed a love of music playing piano and by 13 had won poetry contests. These were but two fields of many he would master during his unique polymath life of creating. He went on to study music at the Cleveland School of Arts and the Cleveland Institute of Music. So, he was schooled where Marsden Hartley graduated. His drama poetry roots from working with the oldest African American theater in the States, Karamu House. He and Adelaide Simon co-founded one of the oldest and influential magazines of the Black avant-garde, Free Lance, 1950. Over the years he corresponded with many known imagist, objectivist, and projectivist poets and published many well known and upcoming poets.

Atkins said (like some others thought), he was avant-garde before he knew he was avant-garde. He is now a renowned figure in American letters, as mentioned, receiving due attention, including the spot lighting of a couple of his pre-concrete era and concrete era typographical visual poems. Several essays on his various creative interests are found in Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master, edited by Kevin Prufer & Michael Dumanis. What has yet to be discussed is his place in American visual poetics not as an avant-garde experimental or innovative poet, but an accomplished visual and sound poet, before and during the early formative period of Concrete Poetry and his wider role in American visual and sound poetics. In need of a deeper delve is his participation in and mentoring of Cleveland’s poets through workshops and teaching platforms. Two in particular who he mentored, who also became concrete poets in the early 1960s, d.a.levy and Kent Taylor, will be discussed below. They in turn would pass on concrete poetic mentoring to others with the lessons learned from Atkins, combined with their mutual and overlapping influences from other fields, and the journals publishing international concrete poets. Together as a group of liked minded friends and poets they created Cleveland Concrete upon the foundation Atkins created and then later engaged being published by levy.

Further, again beyond my remit, he's a conduit between the American visual poetic tradition Cummings and Patchen gave us —the parts that inspired him and then accented by own avant-garde musical and visual understandings and aesethic — and N. L. Pritchard (1939 – 1996). Pritchard, of New York City, is another erased from the “histories” now being attended by scholars and those of us interested in visual text poetics. This interest has allowed his two books to be republished: Matrix and Eecchhooeess. From a single page poem to multi-page series, his vivid word-made-visual typographical placements, with page as field of play, was new, non-derivative, as was Atkins before him. It ranged from minimal delicate floating gestures to dense text. Despite being well known in NYC among the elite of the avant-garde, he was not in or mentioned in the anthologies of concrete poetry.(25) Cummings, Patchen, Atkins, and Pritchard have in common a mixture of visual playfulness and lyricism. Atkins’ influence on Pritchard may be a possible but improbable research task now that recent information of their correspondence came to light. During a August 2021 visit Diane Kendig asked Atkins my question regarding Patchen and Pritchard:

I honestly don't remember Russell talking about Patchen before, but he lit up more over that name more than anyone, actually laughed the hardest he had all day, and he seemed very sure over Pritchard. If we only had more time, we could no doubt get him to focus more and tell more. Diane Kendig (26)

Whether correspondence survives with Patchen and or Pritchard is an unknown. Scholars in the field of the Black avant-garde may be able to pursue these newly-revealed connections. At this writing the only one I have found to anthologize Pritchard was Richard Kostelanetz in his Text-Sound Texts, William Marrow, 1980.(27)

In the Jacket 2 Interview with Russel Atkins two items jumped out: the pre-concrete era poem, SPYRYTUAL, and knowing Musique Concrète preceded Concrete Poetry.(28) Few seem aware of this history, in this country at least. Concrete and visual poets generally arrive into the field through poetry or painting. He arrived through alternatives in music; thus, his visual compositions are informed by his musicality with its avant-grade outriding coupled with his deep knowledge of American avant-garde poets, some of whom he would correspond with and publish.

Craig Dworkin honors Atkins placing A STORM SHALL BREAK, first published in 1967 by d.a.levy and his last known concrete era visual poem, on the cover of Radium of the Word.(29) He also provides an in-depth video reading of SPYRYTUAL, the earliest known pre-concrete era visual poem by Atkins.(30) Thirdly, he hosts a number for Atkins’ collections on his web site, Eclipse.(31)

Needing more details, I purchased three books.(32) Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master contains the important manifesto on music, “A Psychovisual Perspective for ‘Musical’ Composition,” first published in Free Lance,1955. I suggest this be placed alongside manifestos of the founding period of Concrete Poetry. I do so because as mentioned above he held his music and poetry indistinguishable. Also, he understood concrete music’s influential role in his music and avant-garde poetry. Following his own vision he shifted the American modern and post modern poetry theories of imagism, objectivism, and projectivism from poem as object that is not an externally seen thing but as an object seen by the mind’s eye. For him music is sound, sound an object waiting manifestation by its creator. Whether he arrived at this understanding through Platonic or Perennial Philosophy or through the implications of Zen learned perhaps from John Cage is a question on which others can inquire. Or perhaps he had the gift of synesthesia as did the above-mentioned Pamela Coleman Smith (and so too Bob Cobbing). My understanding of his concept is that music as sound is seen by the mind’s eye, and that being a musician and a poet, the same manifesto applies to his poetry which is rich in sound and at moments highly visually scored, the main focus of this sketch.

Atkins stepped outside the main stream of post modernism avant-garde by stating music as an object is seen by the mind’s eye waiting birth into existence through creation. Again, whether or not this is implicitly or explicitly suggestive of the Platonic or Perennial Philosophy’s upper realms I have not received an answer. Nevertheless, Atkins was prescient for what was coming in Cleveland nine years after publishing the manifesto (partially with his assistance), and the incoming global elements of Concrete Poetry found in the most unlikely of places: a bookstore hidden on a fourth floor, but destined for national fame.

Following a strong inner voice, seen from my distance and time, Atkins was first and foremost a musician, poet, writer, editor, and mentor allied to the Arts, not trends or politics except on his own terms expressed through and for art. This caused problems not only within Black movement politics but also Black arts and literature. Social “taxation,” sometimes heavy, comes in many forms on a visionary; nor is it new in this nation supposedly celebrating freedom of expression and independence of the individual. In practice our society is anything but supportive of individuals outside group thought, whatever the group.

birds (excerpt from NOCTURNE AND PRELUDE)

Surviving Atkins lyrical, avant-garde musically-informed, pre-concrete era poems unfortunately remain small in number.(33)

SPYRYTUAL, view or experiment, circa 1950; Renegade Press, SPYRYTUAL, 1966

NIGHT AND A DISTANT CHURCH, variations of: original 1950, Objects 1, 

1961; 2, Objects 2, 1963; Heretofore, 1968

NOCTURNE AND PRELUDE, Berloit Journal of Poetry, 1951

[the L  L  L], A Podium Presentation, 1960

NIGH)Th’CRY,PT, Objects 1, 1961

TRAINYARD AT NIGHT, variations of: Objects 1, 1961; 2, Objects 2, 1963; 

Heretofore, 1968

Distant the Sound, Distant the Sound, Polluted Lake Series, Renegade Press, 1965

A STORM SHALL BREAK, The Marrahwannah Quarterly, Vol 3, No 3, 1967

untitled (birds) Here In The, 1976 (excerpt ending of NOCTURNE . . .)

visual typographic pre concrete era poems and concrete era poems availabe at: 

Tragedy stepped centre stage after a prolonged negotiation with the City of Cleveland to purchase, (read seize) his home. In exchange with a binding contract for a spacious apartment, the city is to pay his rent in life long agreement. Given the life expectancy of a Black man in America, the city thought it had negotiated well. Later, he fell off a ladder waking up in a care facility. While in coma his caregiver became a caretaker mistakenly or knowingly throwing away his boxed archives in the apartment into a dumpster. Gone precious correspondence, manuscripts and unpublished works. His home lot and the neighborhood, Kinsman-Grand neighborhood today named by bicycle kids Beaverhill Hill, in which he was born, raised and lived is now part of a giant hydroponic greenhouse business growing vegetables, built in 2012. He sold his home in 2010. Nearby by a mega church named The Word was dedicated in 2000. One small footnote in Cleveland's ongoing rollcall of racial disregard and expendability.(34) In 2017 the street he played on was renamed and is now a homage carrying the honor of his name.(35) He remains alive at 95, having survived these circumstances, and most recently covid-19.

SPYRYTUAL was reprinted as a single poem concrete poetry chap book in 1966 by d.a.levy.(36) It first appeared in a small magazine in 1950. This startling strong visual and sound poem upon first sighting-reading-hearing (internally) adds strength to my smile and eye-opening muscles with each return reading and seeing. Coming to the concrete/visual poem by way of concrete music before concrete poetry was coined, the Atkins’ concrete/visual/score poem in general, I suggest, should also be experienced as a sound cluster compositional object within the context of his manifesto briefly discussed above.

According to his interview in Jacket 2, the original was typed using the slash key (/), not the quote () marks. It was first wrongly-published with quote marks (). Unfortunately, it is the only published form available. No copy of the original or the first publication has surfaced for comparison. As a reminder, see the mentioned above Craig Dworkin in depth video riff on this poem.(37) For me, the poem is a must-add to visual rain poems that include those by Apollinaire, Seiichi Niikuni, and Paul Reps. 

The Courier 12 font is used for the following renderings.(38) While this fails to present the sight-feel of the original mimeo / offset printings common place in the Cleveland Concrete scene, they provide two versions. The first, the change from the original. Who changed it remains unanswered: the 1950 publisher or levy? According to Kent Taylor, given levy’s attention to detail and the author’s intent he was publishing, it is less likely d.a.levy changed it. Thus, my attempt to render a return to Russell Atkins’ original composition regardless of whose error.

There is this possibility solving the stroke switch. levy was printing with a small letterhead hand press. Perhaps the typeset was limited, it did not have a / type to set. If this is the case, levy had no choice but the choices of or for rain. He selects . Thus Atkins says, “The publisher did it.”

Support for this observation comes from a recent video conversation with Kent Taylor. He came across a memoir by Randy Rhody who had a book published in 1966 by levy. Paracutes is a mimeo production. Everyone, including Taylor, thought levy had erred, made a typo, that the correct title was Parachutes.(39) This is not the case much to the surprise of Taylor. This provides additional proof to the attention to detail shown by levy, following the intent of those he published. 

NOCTURNE AND PRELUDE, Beloit Poetry Journal, 1951, is 6 page lexical and visual sound score sensation. It is not only what I would term lyrical concrete, obviously given the date before concrete, but certainly a score for a sound poem. The poem rises in the night walking the asleep shadowy Cleveland streets. His sunrise typographic scoring illuminates a long dawn to sun appearing and then its concrete poem like ending of numerous birds in flight. The ending is found above that has been republished as a single visual score as noted. Though published in 1951, when did he form the draft with this concrete ending before concrete poetry was announced? This poem is not an isolate. Many of the visually scored poems, parts or an entirety, are sound clusters and or patterns expressing a captured moment as an object seen and heard in the mind’s eye. NIGHT AND A DISTANT CHURCH,1950, has a few available versions. Though a shorter poem its visual / sound poetics are just as eloquent. The variations are located on the web at Dworkin’s Eclipse.(40) Of interest are various “scores” for bell, each a single word scored visual sound-object poem and considering the poem variations as a group, then one sees-hears the movement of the bells heard and mind-seen. He lived within walking distance of several neighborhood churches.(41) Across the street from his home comes the much less scored variations of TRAINYARD AT NIGHT.(42)

Distant the Sound is a minimal series with single word poems on a page. As a whole, it is a minimal sound-visual kinetic poem unlike other poems of his. This piece should rightly be included in all self-respecting minimal poem collections and one word poem collections. I will be discussing this poem again while commenting on the publishing of concrete poets by d.a.levy. We hear and see his sound-object(s) formed by a church choir’s ensemble-sound adrift finding its way through a neighborhood maze into his mind’s eye during a hushed quiet.

This poem and the other sound-visual scored illuminations provoked a reconsideration while in awe of this kinetic grouping. He brought me back to the significance of my first memory, which was in Cleveland when I was 2 and a half, in the winter of 1945-46. I was pretending to be asleep at nap time. My mother and her father came into the doorway to check on me.(43) My mother whispered, “Is he awake?” At that moment Atkins had won several poetry contests. The Atkins Cleveland poems challenge the reader to experience more than a "thing-ed" object of the city. Cleveland was his subject in many poems, carrying subtleties of the variety of its environs and influences. Unlike the model of William’s Paterson, Atkins not only showed us the things of his city as others have and do to this moment and will into the future, he sounded his subject and gave us the sonar bounce-back as sounds seen as objects in the mind’s eye, laid out in a variety of ways on the page. Thus, I do not see-read his visual scored poems as experiments but as finely-cut precious stones afloat, showering sound-light rays that sing and dance in the mind’s eye.

Mentioned in the writings on Atkins, and the tragic manuscript loss, is a collection of 20 or so poems in a folder titled SYPRYTUAL. It was looked at by a few individuals but the actual number of poems and titles remains undisclosed -- a mystery and worse a loss for American visual poetics. Perhaps these were all associated with song? Such was the foundation of shimmering possibility that Atkins prepared for d.a.levy and Kent Taylor, who would learn from Atkins and in their turn mentor younger friends forming Cleveland Concrete Poetry.


’s next evolutionary step perhaps begins with Russell Atkins opening his door welcoming in a young poet, Kent Taylor, after an inquisitive phone call in early 1963 (or more probable earlier when another young poet, d.a.levy, began attending the Free Lance Poetry workshops, cohosted with Adelaide Simon). It was more salon -- including a library rich with literary volumes and magazines open to participants -- than workshop. Kent first began writing poetry as a freshman in college and after graduating he hesitantly went to medical school. Poetry’s call was too strong. He returned home to discover what She, the Muse, Our Lady the Trickster, offered. Answering this call in an empire-building nation denying it is an empire. with the double hubris of manifested destiny and American exceptionalism, all wrapped in the bubble of a dream, demonstrates an acceptance of profound risk. It is especially so if not career or business oriented, rather chosen as a way of life in an anti-academic-underground-street poetics and philosophy opposing the States supposedly United in world hegemony.

Atkins invited Taylor to the workshop held in the home of Adelaide Simon, cofounder of Free Lance, saying there is a young poet you should meet and will like. He remembers walking up the stairs into the second floor library seeing a small, slight man. They were introduced becoming fast friends discovering many mutual books and authors held in high esteem, including Camus, Artaud, and Patchen. The magazine Evergreen Review was important to both introducing a vast unknown literature. They shared a deep interest in Buddhism, its Zen, and other non Eurocentric philosophies and religions. Both were already stepping outside Cleveland’s group thought steeped in conservative Christian politics fearful of anything accented otherwise, especially critical of empire and its spoken and unspoken orthodoxies. Together they would print their first concrete poem chapbooks at the end of 1964 on levy’s letterpress. levy spent a lot of time in the Adelaide Simon home, living and printing in the basement before moving elsewhere.

levy was printing poetry publications selling them on the cheap or giving them away. While heading to California and Mexico Taylor experienced the levy poetry dissemination hustling process along the way. After Mexico levy wanted to head back home, so he hitchhiked. Wanting to body surf and check out the state, Taylor stayed for a while in California returning to Cleveland in September.

November, Taylor visited a bookstore after reading a small newspaper ad. Located in an unlikely location, the fourth floor of the Arcade, he walked into The Asphodel Bookstore. It was a small space named after the well known William Carlos Williams poem. Jim Lowell, proprietor and fan of Williams, was book collector and well connected to the avant-garde publishing and literary scene. He was also a close friend of Charles Olson. The core of the volumes for sale were from his collection. Primarily a mail order supported business, the location was picked for low rent. Taylor quickly spread the unexpected good news, an avant-garde and contemporary literature bookstore in Cleveland. It would become a well known hangout for local poets and writers and for poets and writers passing through the area, a hunt and gather must stop. The shop became their and later for the younger poets, entry way into the avant-garde, international and national. They arguably had better access to this literature than the college student. Also their experience of and in it was unfiltered. Important to Taylor and levy and later these younger poets of Cleveland were books and magazines of international concrete poetry. These were studied and provided sources of contact and outreach. Lowell also became the second poetry mentor for levy and Taylor.

For Russell Atkins

to be

in the moment

means being

no more

than next

to nothing

Kent Taylor

The Atkins and Simon Free Lance Salon, The Asphodel Bookstore, levy and Taylor, and the younger poets they mentored, gave birth to the unpredictable Cleveland Renaissance. Its roots may be traced to librarian Helen Collins who founded The Free Lance Poetry and Prose Workshop in 1942. Russel Atkins was a charter member. He walked it the next step founding the magazine, FreeLance, with Adelaide Simon as co-editor. It was one of the more important Black avant garde publications in the country. Independent, it was not beholden to any school of literature.

Taylor looks upon Atkins and Lowell as mentors opening him to the vistas of contemporary avant-garde poetry and literature. How levy perceived them I do not know, but suspect it was as mentors, similar to Taylor. Mentorship outside academia generally is a path taken by poets living and directed by the muse as a way of life, not a career. Many had no intention nor even a concept of being a poet before answering the call. After medical discharge from the Navy, levy lived a life of dedicated poverty following the muse. Taylor was headed into a medical career. Looking back was it a choice? Looking forward, at the moment of choice many poets do not want to be burdened with fearful regret. Another generalization, for each story differs, the poetic canon is self-chosen while inside academia a poet’s canon begins with required reading lists and (again general) its homogenized critical group thought. The archetypical rip between academia and the avant-garde continues to hurt -- is it avant-garde if accepted and taught in academia? Whether a poet is university taught or trained by a mentor, their own voice must be found and lessons learned, forgotten, or composted, until resonant as authentic. Cleveland poets respected one another’s unique voice not pressuring themselves into a school of group thought. 

Popular poetry reading venues appeared, The Gate, being the first. One of the important reading series, was instigated by levy after a visit to New York City. This is a well-known history except that perhaps the details behind each series contain suggestive fuzziness. The publishing histories of levy, rjs, and Tom Kryss are well known in some areas.(44) Commentaries on specific volumes published by them abound in rare book links. They published poets living in and outside Cleveland during short the mimeograph small press scene.(45) rjs and Kryss continued publishing for many years after the death of levy. Lowell soon began listing their publications in his catalogs and displayed them in the bookstore significantly aiding their recognition and distribution. levy is well known for his distribution methods of local, national and international dissemination. 

Commentaries on the concrete poetics in Cleveland have only the deep dives into levy in zen concrete & etc. by d.a.levy in 1991 followed in 2007 by d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution. The former is dedicated to the concrete poetry by levy.(46) Additional information is available on his Home Page created by his friend, Karl Young.(47) 

Taylor and levy were aware of the visual poetics of Cummings, Patchen, Reps, and the sound-objects discussed above by Atkins, but not contemporary international concrete poetry that was opened to them by James Lowell. Taylor purchased issue 10 of Ian Finlay’s Poor Old Tired Horse. Contributors are: Robert Lax, Eugene Gomringer, Anselm Hollo, Augusto de Campos, Ian Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houédard, and Edwin Morgan. He eventually would own and study eight additional issues during 1964. During one of our many video chats he underlined the importance of the British magazine, link #6, 1964, Gloucestershire College of Art’s Cheltenham Campus, edited by David Holmes. Its contributors include poems and statements by Finlay, Furnival, Hollo, Houédard, Sharky & a translation of Pierre Garnier’s manifesto, “Position 1 of International Spatialist Poetries.”(48) One significance of this issue is the presentation of works from Germany unread-unseen before.

Ian Hamilton Finlay published Poor Old Tired Horse through much of the 1960s. Issue #12 is of visual concrete accompanied by op art.(49) It foreshadows the “First International Exhibition of Concrete and Kinetic Poetry,” Cambridge: St Catharine’s College at the end of 1964.(50) Bob Cobbing was not allowed into the exhibition; his concrete poems being sound scores.(51) levy and Taylor were unaware of the gift that British concrete had for dividing itself into enclaves, as per the wider British poetry scene which would later erupt into the Poetry Wars. Among the divisions were visual-only concrete versus auditory concrete, a concrete poem both visual and a score for performance or to be read aloud. During October and November 1965 Cobbing appeared in “Between Poetry And Painting,” a larger and more expansive exhibition including the visual poetry of the French Lettrists.(52) Cobbing and Finlay would later fall out and further subdivide into "dirty" and "clean" concrete silo thinking.

Going through issues of Poor Tired Old Horse and various exhibitions catalogs from 1964 onward and concrete anthologies published in the States from 1967 to 1971, single word poems abound. Atkins had already scored such within NIGHT AND A DISTANT CHURCH, 1950 (reprinted in HERETOFORE, London: Paul Breman Ltd, 1968), and NOCTURNE AND PRELUDE, Berloit Poetry Journal, 1951. The single word or visual arrays, however, were not isolated in a minimalist form. In NIGHT AND A DISTANT CHURCH note the wind sound “mmm” presented concretely, leaving readers-viewers with a sounded-visual echo fading into  distance. NOCTURNE AND PRELUDE also ends with such a fading sound-sight, of birds in flight. The entire long poem is rich with concrete-like expression found later in the anthologies. Nevertheless, like Patchen and Reps, Atkins is ignored in the anthologies, including the 1967 Beloit anthology edited by Stephan Bann, for reasons probably rooted in the conscious or unconscious walling-off of all American concrete poets. Tensions between these editors and publishers is visible in the above-mentioned Bann interview in which he suggests Higgins wanted to be the gatekeeper. This tension moment between Bann and his allies and Higgins and his allies, is perhaps the root that grew much later into a network of Language poets and academics trying to dominate visual poetry as a text-only expression in 1995, with Higgins and the Sackners as allies. Only the New Directions’ Bory anthology included a wider selection than the usually anthologized. Later in 1980 Richard Kostelanetz anthologized a wider selection in Text-Sound Texts indicating indirectly the abundance of those missing. He too, however, overlooked Cleveland, but did include Pritchard. Kostelanetz also appeared in Bory’s anthology with levy.

After a year of study to the month of finding international concrete, levy and Taylor got to work. “My Aleatory Letters was published November 21-22, 1964 (typesetting ran late into the wee hours of the next day) and levy's Farewell The Floating Cunt was published within days either side--i have never been able to determine which was first--both concrete.”(53) levy soon followed publishing two concrete chapbook series printed on letter press in 1965, Polluted Lake Series and then Ohio City Series totaling 19 chapbooks.(54) The first chapbook is Distant the Sound by Russell Atkins. Including the two well-known British concrete poets Edwin Morgan and Dom Sylvester Houédard in Polluted Lake Series exemplifies levy’s constant outreach inside and outside Cleveland. bpNichol’s first concrete poetry book appears in the second series. All others are by Cleveland concrete poets. Geoffrey Cook’s first concrete poetry book is found in the first series. levy continued publishing concrete poetry in his magazines and concrete poetry chapbooks until his suicide late 1968.

1966 saw more concrete publications of and by levy. This is the year, as mentioned, of rjs’ publication of cleveland concrete. The Atkins’ single paged poem chapbook, SPYRYTUAL, is published this year. In the second volume, number 1, of levy’s The Marrahwanna Quarterly the contributor note for Atkins reads, “. . . cleveland hermit shoots poems & sun rays between the toes…guardian of kindsburry run.” This issue presents two concrete poems by rjs.

d.a.levy and d.r.wagner wrote-composed The Egyptian Stroboscope in which levy begins his destructive writing.(55) Two years later levy follows up with his widely recognized masterwork, The Tibetan Stroboscope, with his destructive writing on full display.(56) Only a few copies survive out of 3000; no one knows why he destroyed them. His destructive writing continued evolving by treating a poem in his chapbook scarab, 1966. Its followup, scarab poems, 1967-1968, contains denser overlays of his poems and poems by Kent Taylor and e.r. baxter. Destructive writing continues into his The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle magazine/newspaper where he adds opposing sacred, mundane and profane iconographics moving from concrete into visual poetry.

levy often has been called the (capital P) Poet of Cleveland. Not to discount this opinion, I suggest examining the works by his mentor, Russell Atkins. Atkins was not influenced by Beat literature and not inclined to write in the form of the long poem, except his drama poetry. Atkins did not drive. He walked the city. As did levy. It appears Atkins was often awake most of the night, not getting up until after noon. As mentioned above he keenly observed, being a musician, the sounds of Cleveland. After “seeing his sound-object,” then the poem written-composed arrived with his unique blending of image-object-projection woven with his particular cultural insights. When publishers manifest a series of publications the choice of its first voice is not taken lightly. I am certain, given my feel for levy and the sharing by Kent Taylor, levy was no exception. Thus, Distant the Sound by Atkins as the first of the 1965 chapbook series seems to suggest gratitude for his mentoring and an acknowledgment of Atkins’ role in concrete poetry before there was concrete poetry as a type of poetic expression.(57) Added to this kinetic sound poem of drifting voices of a choir ensemble is the A STORM SHALL BREAK (see below).(58) The latter may be the most lyrical and lace like in the concrete anthology issue; it captures the movement of a tree in the flash and sound of a coming storm. Atkins, as I read him, being the poet of the place Cleveland before levy and Taylor, remains keener than most poets expressing the sounds of place, especially his dexterity. His skilled use of visual gestures within language are honed first from what he learned and then harnessed from the avant-garde and then registered into his own voice. His mind’s eye sees the sculpt object in its initial sound form and then shows the drift as it bounces along, off and over the walls of his beloved city, from which he too never moved away.

Taylor’s MIST, Polluted Lakes Series, no. 4, is a kinetic eight paged poem:        

MIST        HUNG        CITY        MIST HUNG CITY        MIST HUNG        MIST CITY        HUNG CITY        MIST       

His OVER, Ohio City Series, No. 2, is a series of a “right arrow below the word OVER at the lower right corner of each page.”(59) Joel Lipman offered me his observation on levy’s Ohio City Series, No. 6 levy, d.a. GOT BUTTER ON IT: “a play on the options of the letters B R E A D.”(60)

All of the series except the Atkin’s chapbook remain unavailable on the web. Thus, a visit to special collections library or collectors by other researchers is required for more detailed commentary. Perhaps a special collection will provide at a price pdfs for research. The problem though is that a pdf cannot provide what a crisp picture by camera provides. Had not Jason Davis generously provided camera shots of the Atkins’ chapbook, I would have relied on the pdf available on eclipse. This pdf suggests what is not there, a consciousness smudging around the letterpress type by levy to suggest an enhanced experience of mind-seeing the drifting away and softening of sounds. What I saw as smudging was either bleeding through from the other side of the paper picked up by a scanner or the blurred result of a low grade scan. The camera captured each surface imprint, the crisp letterpress printing, thus the kinetic concrete presentation of the words and their parts carrying the intent of Atkins sound-object as a movement form heard-seen to disappearance.

Aleatory Attempts at Moneymaking, 1965, is published during the period of the concrete poetry chapbook series. Because of its limited edition of four copies, it was not included in either series. It is rarely mentioned. “Aleatory” points to chance, the toss of the dice, and also chance in music and performance. Reading the sales promotion / description one finds accurate insights and quotes from Joel Lipman on levy and the words of Marvin Sackner to promote the sale of this collector’s copy currently valued at $4,500. The Sackner blurb differs from the actual formative story of the edition of four and offers a tale of caution when reading for facts within the realm of the multi-billion dollar domain of post modernism art’s monetization.(61)

In a video chat with Kent Taylor, Aleatory Attempts at Moneymaking came up in respect of the false narratives he comes across regarding the “genius use and selection” of papers found in the levy publications. levy lived in poverty. He lived and breathed poetry and art intending as we know to brighten the consciousness of his beloved but still asleep city. His source of paper came from Hollo Printing through special low priced sales or actual gifts. While his choices were strategic, they were not aesthetic but financial. He would print with what he had until having none. Then he would walk for purchase or receive the gift of another ream or more of the available at that moment. His was not the thoughtful process of selected paper for preconceived design. The newsprint for this rare book was salvaged material after completing either a painting or painting a wall.(62) The newspapers covered the floor for protection. He then used them to clean the brushes, hence the “brush stokes.” He cut the useable sheets, collated, made the covers and stapled the four, a consciously humorous and critical gesture against the coerciveness of moneymaking. The title then is truth in advertising. Upon reading the description by Sackner, Kent, being a witness of the process, laughed until tears ran down his cheeks knowing levy’s joke continues its play.

In 1966 levy and wagner concrete poems are displayed in the first Paris concrete poetry exhibition. A late 1967 letter in the levy’s archives at Kent State is from Brian Lane notifying his (and wagner’s?) works from the Paris show to be displayed in an exhibition in different parts of England. He also asks for all the contacts for American concrete poets levy could provide.(63)

Also in 1966, levy printed his important concrete political chapbook, Visualized prayers & hymn for the American god.(64) It stands as if written / composed today. For the cops of Cleveland at that moment it is perhaps like a wet red cloth snapping a bull’s nose. I point to this particular chapbook as one of many examples of the publications the Cleveland concrete group printed on mimeograph presses. Swanberg and Smith cover this in detail. I am pointing out, which is supported by a comment in an email by rjs below, that nearly all the concrete poems they published were composed by typewriter. Going through the publications one will also note a few hand drawn poems. Thus, most of their concrete also inhabits the genre of typewriter art. levy was collected by the Sackners for their internationally known archive, most of which is now housed at the University of Iowa.(65) The Sackners edited and published The Art of Typewriting, 2015. Another typewriter anthology, Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology, edited by Barrie Tullett was published in 2014. Neither contains works by levy or anyone from Cleveland. In another important anthology, Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979, published last year, the women of Cleveland concrete, who appeared in levy chapbooks and magazines and in rjs’ anthology, are left out.

Regarding those he published in the anthology rjs points out:

in 1966, i would have been 18; hence, dagmar would have also been 18, a few months older i think, as would have been mimi, who was a few months younger (tom kyrss was also a few months younger than me, which i always found hard to comprehend, since he always looked so ancient)...but based on the historical documents i unearthed, claudia van tyne would have been 16 (DOB: January 30, 1950, according to her voter registration) it occurs to me that might make her the youngest published concrete poet, or if not that, at least the youngest woman to have concrete poems published…then, in the same vein, joe walker was also 18, black, & editor of a short lived poetry he may have been the youngest published black concretist…(66)

Unfortunately, Atkins did not appear. That is my opinion from here and now, not there and then. Atkins, says rjs,

read at least some of the open readings at the Gate, so knew him well enough to introduce him at those readings.....on the other hand, i don't recall that we ever had an exchange beyond that involved in the business of scheduling him to read…the most likely reason i didn't include him in "Cleveland Concrete" was because i didn't think of him as a concrete poet...& that despite the fact that i was most certainly aware of his "Spyrytual" the time, i saw concrete poetry as a distinctly anti-establishment, revolutionary movement, as outlined by levy's paraconcrete my mind, Russell just didn't fit that mold…(67)

During 1966 the police surveillance intensified. It is difficult at this moment to wrap one’s mind around the fact that in the 1960s four letter words were still considered obscene literature when printed. Cleveland City “government” had a Surveillance Squad, a left over, perhaps the last remaining political surveillance squad in the nation, from rightwing red-baiting McCarthy days. Its mission, investigate anti American activity. Given Cleveland’s young spirited poets probing alternatives to Christian and Western traditional ideas, particularly Buddhism, Asian and other cultural iconographics coupled with anti Viet Nam War activities, they came under investigation, police harassment, bullying and then arrest. Promoting legalization of marijuana added to the angst. James Lowell was arrested in December, 1966. Boxes of books were taken and never returned, some irreplaceable collector items. Kent Taylor in an email points out that Russell Atkins’ SPYRYTUAL is among the books taken into custody under suspicion of obscenity. In 1967 levy was arrested twice, January and March. rjs was arrested and spent time incarcerated having been given poor legal advice. Details are available elsewhere.(68) On the back of The Marrahwanna Quarterly Vol 3, number 4 is a list of contributors to the James Lowell defense. He was one of the targets of the police for selling and promoting avant-garde literature they called obscene. Lowell was forced to relocate his bookstore for attracting dubious and unsavory characters, a euphemism for poets and writers. The list provides the importance Lowell was held by the American avant-grade poetry community. Many came to the aid of levy as well.

I mention this harsh political repressiveness, which was sometimes directly aimed at the poets of the Cleveland Renaissance, to introduce a fragment of a long poem from 1967, and to indicate a larger literary tradition Atkins, levy, Kent Taylor and the others are part of and added to. Their additions to the American literary visionary vistas are part of a philosophical cultural shift created by those born during WW2 (except Atkins) and after who “came of age” in the 1960s. They were mainly influenced by the Beat Poets, the earlier Transcendentalists, the literature that informed these two consciousness shifting “movements,” and other singular visionary voices. The opening to a long poem begins

i have nothing to say

if you turn away

they made a machine

of / yr mind - once contained

infinite doors


who let them be closed

one by one

. . .

on the invisible tombstones

you turned away·

from yr infinite self (69)

For me, this points to William Blake’s 

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would 

appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things 

through narrow chinks of his cavern.

which in turn, again for me, points to the most famous of cave tour guides, Plato, whose goal was to lead those he guided outside into the light of enlightenment.(70) Kenneth Patchen would only mention Blake as an influence. levy was committed to raising the conscious of he beloved home city. This is obvious in his lexical poems, publishing and dissemination activities. Other Cleveland poets too held this ideal being influenced by these ideas and working together in their various ways.

The States were and remain puritanical. This virus permeates nearly all sectors and groups easily fomenting divisions within and against. Group thought in Cleveland allowed the police to run amok. Essentially rejected by the populace he was trying to uplift, levy, it appears to me, turned more and more in his concrete to destructive writing. This shift perhaps results from an internal conflict regarding his Buddhist and zen delving without a formal teacher. Those initiated by a zen master experience zen within its sacred precincts compared to those, however diligent, except the rarest exceptions, involved with what I call pop-zen, zen through book learning, lectures, and workshops.

We have Kafka saying art should be a hammer, not a mirror. Instead of smashing the mirror, which we know has become most common in the arts, the mirror should be called upon to be polished until there is no mirror. The tension between these poles of artistic and poetic expression can be seen in the works of levy over the years as the social environment darkens and his hopes for his Cleveland diminish. This tension also vibrates in many of the poems of the Cleveland poets and their concrete poetry. Cleveland poetry is not an exception. This tension resonates throughout the underground-street poetry of the States with too few in my opinion attempting to polish the mirror into its vanishing point to open the doors of perception to the waiting vistas to be experienced not dreamed or seen with psychotropics. (levy, by the way, was anti-drug.)

From Tibetan Stroboscope

kaldron-9, 1979

levy also seems caught between the role of the Bodhisattva and the unattachment of zen with its “all words are empty.” His readings and understandings of Zen Buddhism, a high regard for the enlightened Tibetan master poet Milarepa, and others obviously influenced his lexical poetry. His move towards a zen concrete poetry expressing the emptiness of words, his destructive writing, began in 1966 with d.r.wagner writing and printing the Egyptian Stroboscope. What he called destructive writing later is known as a wider type of concrete and visual poetry, treated text. Doris Cross began her painted treated text work of the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary in 1965; Tom Phillips in 1966; and ronald johnson, influenced by Phillips, in 1967. Perhaps the first to treat texts to find another there there was Bern Porter. Being a publisher of Patchen and thus influenced by him, it seems Porter began his treated / found poems in 1951.(71) All the work by these artists and poets were “findings.” levy’s intent was dealing with emptiness of words, there is no there there. His way of expressing this emptiness and caution about words and language is found in his later destructive written concrete and visual poems. The Tibetan Stroboscope is dedicated to Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts, Robert Aitken, Phillip Kapleau, Paul Reps, and Philip Whalen, all zen participants in American zen literature. He called it “An experiment in destructive writing other communications and concrete prose.” It is perhaps his most articulate statement of these concerns juxtaposed with sacred, profane and mundane iconographics. The images perhaps suggesting, while being carriers of information, our iconographics in the States are so overwhelmingly ubiquitous and carelessly tossed about they too are meaningless. Our media long ago reached the point of selling not informing. Psychology is turned outward to manipulate human behavior, not inward to enlighten.

Commentaries and asides on levy as a zen aficionado became a topic in my conversations with Kent Taylor. Much has been made of levy’s knowledge of zen from his known reading list and book taught meditation out of which came his zen-sourced expressions. No one with certainty can know his inner most level of consciousness compared to an initiated zen practitioner under the guidance of a realized master. Taylor and his former wife, levy’s cousin, are in agreement that there are many overstatements concerning levy’s zen knowledge which was book based zen. Further, they agree that the width and depth was not exceptional. He was one of many with extensive zen book knowledge. What is unique with levy is found in two emails from Joan Czaban Kinney, his cousin:

1 In answer to your question about when d a began to express an interest in Zen Buddhism, he was 12 years old.d a levy explores Buddhism and Zen Buddhism.

2 At age 12 years, d a levy’s parents began exploring plans for his bar mitzvah celebration to be held when he turned 13 years old.  During discussions about the synagogue service, d a discovered that his father was paying dues to retain his seat at each synagogue service.  He found it upsetting that anyone would be charged for a seat in a religious house of worship.  Subsequently, he refused to be bar mitzfahed.

He was being raised to understand Judaism but also was familiar with Protestantism and Catholicism.  He knew that of those 3 major religions each claimed to be the only “true religion.”  Those claims provided his incentive to learn about other religions.  He chose to learn about Buddhism first.  That’s how he came to be interested in learning about Buddhism at age 12.

In the film on levy, Ginsberg pointedly remarks on levy’s obvious non-zen-like attachment. Not to discredit levy, they are concerned with over enthusiastic idealism within this area of interest from which he mined.

I have partially addressed this topic of knowing in my pdf book as an aside on zen and pop zen. The latter being zen learned from books, workshops and lectures, not from intensive periods of silence under the direction of a realized zen master. The primary difference may be seen between the path walked by Gary Snyder and the approach and story of Allen Watts, the father of American pop Zen. This is a sensitive topic with many problematic issues within street poetics of that moment continuing into the present and assuredly the future. Within the academic and anti academic avant-grade it was and remains equally sensitive if not more given some who mined Buddhist philosophy to incorrectly justify nihilism. At this moment in 2021 it is even more sensitive and intense given the current bristling tension within the avant-garde. The strain among individuals and groups exists between factions that are fundamentally inclined towards materialistic philosophy and those experientially involved within the wide spectrum of schools of initiated spiritual ways directly experiencing the upper realms.

During this intense period Cleveland is the center of concrete poetry on the fourth coast of Canada and the States. Though residing in Niagara Falls, d.r.wager spent time with levy before setting up residency in Sacramento. Another levy friend lived to the West, Karl Young, who resided in Kenosha, Madison and Milwaukee during his long polymath career. levy its center but not leader. He had no interest leading others other than expressing and providing what the muse offered and directed. rjs and Tom Kryss ran their presses along side levy, so to say, not physically but in the spirit embodied in the Cleveland Renaissance. The oeuvre of concrete poetry printed and published by these three require detailed research. The following email from rjs points to this requirement:

i’m fairly certain that d.a. levy’s essays on concrete and my subsequent conversations with him were the primary, if not the only, influence on my own concrete work...early on, i simply didn't have any exposure to what was going on in England or elsewhere in the US other than what d.a. would have pointed out to me...that influence applies to what i earlier wrote about my collecting and publishing "cleveland concrete" as well... copies of "editorials" on concrete that levy wrote for the marrahwanna quarterly and levy's paraconcrete manifesto…….levy’s paraconcrete manifesto was by far the most important influence on my own work...

“Peaces”, the title poem to my own first collection of poetry, seems to be the first concrete style poem I wrote,. that's on page 9, the 11th plate in this copy of my “lost books.”(72)

i wrote most, if not all, of the poems in “Peaces” when i was 16 or 17 (& i was often irritated when my poems were published with my age appended), so i've been puzzled how a “concrete” poem could have been in that volume when i hadn't heard of concrete till i was 18...the best i can figure is that the collection wasn't published until sometime after i was introduced to concrete, and i typed up & added that to the collection to give it a title and a title poem...

that volume (‘Collateral Triage : The Lost Books of rjs’) also has one of my last (or most recent) concrete poems included as well; “AEC Magic Mushroom Mantra for Robert Head” on page 57, or plate 59

that gives you an idea of how my own concrete poetry evolved...even though i'm using the typewriter to draw a picture with the words in this piece, i'm still burying a hidden poem like message in the words as i change them...

one other thing tom and i did which i think came out of the “anything goes” spirit that was concrete in cleveland at that time was our “Dialog in Pale Blue”, which has often been described as a book of a time when our mimeo was in for repairs, we stapled together piles of the light blue stock that we had on hand into booklets, and then took additional sheets of that paper and folded and/or cut it up, and then pasted those folded pieces into the blank page books we had assembled; we did 200 such books, each one different, and titled it “Dialog in Pale Blue”...consistent with my thought that it was within the realm of concrete, i find that it's listed as concrete poetry by WorldCat:(73)

this write-up, apparently by a book dealer, describes it as well as i could:(74)

During 1967, concrete poetry anthologies published in the States rolled out from established presses and the avant-garde press owned by Dick Higgins, Something Else Press. Besides the unattended cleveland concrete anthology, in the histories of concrete anthologizing in the States, are the two unattended back-to-back concrete poetry anthology issues of levy’s The Marrahwanna Quarterly, Vol 3, #s 3 & 4, 1967.75  Number three opens with an introduction by bpNichol of Canada followed by a Cleveland concrete group manifesto. It is followed by 2 concrete poems by T. L. Kryss, a monsoonal downpour and paranoia wanting to play a musical instrument, two mood-sound works. Atkins’ last known concrete poem, A STORM SHALL BREAK (below) appears on page 19 of this issue. A small but important group of international concrete poets appear and others of note, including two Cleveland women equalling in number or exceeding appearances of women in all but Bory’s anthology, in which three women are published. At the end of the collection an extensive list of concrete publications supports his statement to Michael Basinski knowing 70 or 80 concrete poets.(76) The levy archives at Kent State hold his correspondence. What information can be harvested in this area is an unknown for others to make known. In #4’s received publications notices, page 15, note that a Higgins’ publication is mentioned. Thus we have direct contact with Something Else Press and Dick Higgins. Further, Higgins appears alongside levy in Bory’s 1968 anthology.

Higgins, the supposed international avant-garde publisher of the States and a central figure of the Fluxists, did not publish any Cleveland concrete poetry. He did not publish Patchen, Reps and who knows how many others off the street. To my way of thinking, though Higgins and I were cordial, the poets of Cleveland are in better company among the rejected. In music, though John Cage was respected by the Fluxists, it seems he was not considered one. I can only speculate from what interest I have in the Fluxists. Probably within the Fluxists' fenced playground, Cleveland Concrete did not fit their rules. The Cleveland poets being of the street were attuned to the Beats. The Beats and kindred souls were those levy met and hung with when visiting New York City. Beat poets, not Fluxists, came to the aid of levy and Lowell. The Cleveland poets were not attuned to the schisms in concrete poetry. Subtle or not it appears one had to “apply” to be in the Fluxists. The application form was that works had to aesthetically conform to the group’s body of works, a group thought. Group thought of this type hovers uncomfortably alongside the leftist-fascist, holding not to communalism but Futurism like Marinetti's and dancing to the wave of his baton. Such is not the egalitarian-soft-anarchist mutual respect found in Cleveland concrete, or among many of the street poets of the States.

This fault line in the avant-garde literature of the States grew wider and still widens with the efforts of a small group within academia, beginning in April 7-8, 1995 at the Yale conference, "Symphosophia: The End of Literature.” There has, is, and will always be the traditional tensions leading to the usual squabbles between the new and what is recognized as worthy of university classrooms. That is expected in an honorable debate of ideas and aesthetics. Within the academics of the States there unfortunately seems to be a self-appointed cadre attempting to control avant-garde expression. This is new. During Harry Polkinhorn’s presentation of his paper, “Hyperotics: A Towards A Theory Of Experimental Poetry,” he announced the publication of Philadelpho Menezes’ Visuality: Trajectory of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry by SDSU Press. Publication in Brazil had been blocked by the power of the Noigandres group. Polkinhorn’s translation caused a ferocious response by this academic concrete-language poetry clique.(77) Polkinhorn left visual poetics creating a great loss in American translations from Spanish and Portuguese Latin American visual text arts. Philadelpho Menezes’ book ran counter to the orthodoxy presented by the Noigandres Group allied now with an American language-poetry-concrete-vispo block dominating literary aspects of American academia and its colonies. This happened and continues. Cleveland concrete poetry remains ignored by this orthodoxy, held in the margins. But that doesn't mean it cannot still rage.

The Marrahwanna Quarterly, Vol 3, #4 features several dense concrete poems by Don Thomas. His concrete work and those by others are found in levy’s magazines, but there was no book collection of Thomas by levy. One of levy’s rare oversights? Swamp Er)r(ir BLUES by Don Thomas, 1969, was published by rjs’ Forest City Pollution Control. He graciously provided a copy. The concrete poems in the book are less dense than those in the quarterly, one easily can say some are concrete haiku. One can surely describe them as minimal concrete poems rendering Cleveland City experiences and Atkins like, though visual as object.

Taylor’s MIST provides movement of mist hanging and moving through the Lake Erie’s port city of Cleveland. This movement or pause depends on the reader-viewer’s page turning and mediative or pondering page movement and moments. Thomas on a page gives us other mood renderings such as a rainbow over the city and on another page an instance of a tall pine tree silhouetted against evening sun lake. These and others found in the levy magazines offering up such moments in Cleveland are seen instances. Atkins, seer musician-poet, suggests a beauty of drifting sound objects. He plays with bouncing and drifting sounds many of which are fleetingly tied to his Old English spelling of Spyrytual, perhaps highlighting the sounds of Black gospels / spirituals floating through and above Cleveland vanishing into the void.

Bob Grumman (1941-2015), friend, publisher, mathematical and visual poet, and promoter of avant-grade other poetics, would gladly have dived into this Thomas volume and the other Cleveland publications for a long, detailed and insightful commentary. How many jewels of the Cleveland Concrete era are buried in libraries special collections waiting critical acknowledgment? The Cleveland Memory Project offering selected pdf copies seems but a small  sampling.(78)

My scratch of a sketch is but a scratch over the surface of the Cleveland concrete story, which still awaits its biographer and a publisher with pockets deep enough to fully illuminate a volume or volumes. Special collections of libraries and collectors are where this gold is to be mined. The Cleveland publications are limited editions and for the most part remain ignored or unknown in availability. Ingrid Swanberg and Larry Smith have provided invaluable insights into levy’s works accompanied by commentaries by others. Joel Lipman has written articulate commentary on the works of levy. Karl Young created, documented, essayed, scanned my copy of The Tibetan Stroboscope for public access, and hosted the levy home page. Another sketch, pointed out by Lipman, is by John Oliver Simon, “Neglected poets 2 — d.a. levy.”(79)

During the early life of Russell Atkins, Cleveland was a steel town. It continued less so into the 60s when Cleveland for a brief moment became a major creative concrete poetry center on the national and international scenes. I propose a homage for the concrete era. Atkins considered his poems objects, especially the surviving visuals, as did the poets of concrete. I suggest that the various campus departments of Cleveland State University create a group of stainless or corten steel (formulated to rust itself a self protective coat) or concrete stele. Each stela would have a concrete poem. Another reason suggesting Cleveland State University, Joel Lipman reminded me that is its magazine, The Gamut, during the 1980s under the editorship of Leonard Traywick, published and supported concrete and visual poetry. Surviving members of the Cleveland concrete group would select the poems. Perhaps if enough money could be raised, the chapbook series could be reproduced into steel sheet pages, a pole being the binding for easy page turning. Or should funds be insufficient, perhaps model a concrete garden after Ian Finlay on the campus?

haiku for d.a.

fifty years ago

you etched your exit so deep

we still trip on it

Kent Taylor


Afterword: a strange whether

An outline of this article with exhibits of the two versions of the Akins poem, SPYRYTUAL , accompanying the rain visual poems by Apollinaire, Niikuni and Reps were presented at the Brazilian I Jornada Internacional de Poesia Visual: s e Criação (I International Visual Poetry Day: Research and Creation) November 10, 2021. As expected, no one knew of Atkins, though I was somewhat surprised no one knew of Reps either. Of course I mentioned Patchen’s early works (1939-1946), which also apparently remain unknown. I also attended the launch of Nancy Perloff’s new anthology of concrete poetry, Concrete Poetry: A 21st-Century Anthology. She is the curator of Modern & Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), Los Angeles. Her anthology is sourced from the Getty collection and the exhibition, Concrete Poetry: Words and Sounds in Graphic Space, 2017. This provides us with original untampered works to compare with the reworked concrete poems (according to Bann, mentioned above) found in the Williams anthology published by Higgins.

Issues pertinent to this article and my attempts to bring to light a more open and larger history of visual text art arose during two question and answer followups. There appear to be two opposing concepts held by scholars and participants in American and International visual text art. First, there seems a general international dismissal of American concrete and visual poetry because of our perceived position as an over-dominant empire. This includes an assumption that no resistant concrete or visual poetry expression or expressions other than the accepted Fluxist-informed concrete orthodoxy and the collective agreed upon concrete poetry manifestos. The second assumption has two parts. It holds that concrete and visual poetry of insignificant consequence were created in the States, other than the well-known American works in the internationally-dominated anthologies published in the late 1960s, and 70s. And it also holds without question, as far as I have thus far determined, the newer 21st Century concrete anthologies rehashing the usual narrative and materials other than the long overdue anthologies adding missing women. Thus far, these women-edited anthologies continue framing with the orthodox narrative, except attacking the old obvious sexism. Let me once again remind interested readers that cleveland concrete anthology, 1966, and the two d,a,levy concrete issues, The Marrahwanna Quarterly, Vol 3, #s 3 & 4, 1967, published more women than all the major anthologies combined and also perhaps at the time the youngest black concrete poet and the first known black pre-concrete era proto-visual poet. The issue is not simply sexism, it is also a wider marginalising and now connects to cliques centered around aesthetics and academia. 

I met these contradictions in the previous decade when by chance helping a doctoral candidate (now a Ph.D.) and later a masters candidate (currently with a masters degree pursuing his Ph.D.) outside the usual Eurocentric context, both residents of Africa though divided by the Sahara. Both were overwhelmed by the visual poetry and pre-concrete era materials, never usually mentioned, that I accessed with of a few clicks on my computer keyboard. What I also showed them by default was the shallowness of the orthodox narrative constructed and then massaged in Brazil, the States, Britain and Europe since the late 1960s and early 1970s to the present promoted by segments of American academia and its national and international allies. 

        Why is it that international scholars looking askance at "American Imperial" concrete and visual poetics nevertheless unquestioningly inhale/exhale the narrative of the Brazilian Noigandres-Empire Fluxist-Language Poetry-allied North Atlantic axis? It is known by many that the Noigandres group tried its best in Brazil to maintain control over their narrative of supposed uniqueness. Higgins et al maintained their own unique narrative attempting a North Atlantic hegemony with back turned to the rest of the States. These self appointments met and agreed as mentioned above somewhere around 1994 and formalized at the Yale conference, “Symphosophia: The End of Literature” to extend mutual self-interest narratives on the international stage leading to where we are, emperors with no clothes wearing a see-thru gauze of fear of and compliance with gatekeepers and/or lazy scholarship. The phrase, “The end of literature,” threads their discussions as if all has been expressed except of course their own commentaries and their narrowed vision of a text-only "visual" text.

One of the accusations raised at the conference was the apparent shallowness of concrete and visual poetry works being discussed; that they were not a dense literature. To defend these works, I asked if haiku is a shallow literature. I added that many concrete poets studied zen and haiku. I should have stressed that for concrete and visual poetry to become a more widely valued mode of expression, the actual body of historical works from which to learn must to be made available throughout academia when teaching this subject matter. In order for this to occur, the current orthodox narrative requires dismissal and replacement with a wider, more inclusive history. Perhaps the goal of the orthodoxy is to create a static, academically-acceptable, redacted avant-garde, spiralling into a literature that really has reached its historical end -- an echo from Brazilian Noigandres concrete, often re-stated, reverberating through endless dead conferences.

        I am not an academic; I am a poet, visual poet and former publisher of kaldron; I have no academic support or access to archives where materials are stored; I live in a small unincorporated town of 6000 half way between L. A. and San Francisco on the coast; I am and have been for many years an I.O., an independent operator. And yet it is here from the edges that new ideas always arrive; it is from the edges that dissent can most clearly be spoken.

        By simply harnessing the wealth of available information on the internet, I have been able to show materials that should not be missing in these narratives and histories. If one does not know the authentic history of one’s field of creative expression, how can one become a true outrider who returns with original visionary work? 


1 An email from Kent Taylor who has been my main go to source: “Jeff Maser first identified Cleveland Concrete as the first self titled concrete anthology in America--he made that observa-tion some years back in the description of a copy listed in his catalog.” 

Point of interest, perhaps form some is that my maternal roots are Cleveland. Sister born there as well as mother. Maternal grandparents born in Ohio. Grandfather was Irish,. Large Irish influ-ence in Cleveland. Rub an Irish person long enough and the Keltic shines forth which is the rea-son form my diving into the Keltic knotwork to compose optic knot art typoglif visual poems beginning in 1974. 

2 email from his friend, Mutawaf Shaheed, “I asked him once if saw the music and the poetry as the same. He said, yes. MAS”



5 except Mallarmé's Un Coup de Dés (A Throw of the Dice) most point to as its muse, so to say



8Marius de Zayas and Agnes Meyer. Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Gallery, November, 2018.

9 Marius de Zayas. “Picabia.” Between Music and the Machine: Francis Picabia and the End of Abstraction, fig 28 mathematical formulas. November, 2018.

10 November, 2018.

11 Iconographic images are common place later on in visual text art and visual poetry but not concrete poetry which is generally text only. Text shapes can also be considered iconographic images.

12 November, 2018.

13 Another American group of word and iconographic painters neglected in conversations is  the Santa Fe Transcendental Group. They are briefly sketched with footnotes linking to works in my a history of visual text art.

14 November, 2018.

15 November, 2018.

16 Ibid. P61.

17 All paintings November, 2018.


“Navigating Marsden Hartley's Symbols”

“Out of Berlin, the Heart of an Artist Marsden Hartley Gets His Due in Berlin.” November, 2018.

19 Ibid., Hartley. pp 97

20 November, 2018.

21 Detailed description of meaning. November, 2018.

22 . November, 2018.

23 November, 2018.


25 for pdfs: ,

26 Yesterday, the TV was going, the roommate moving about. I did take this down in scribbled notes, so you can cite this as an interview on 8/21/2021, Cleveland, OH.



29 The Marrahwannah Quarterly, Vol 3, No 3, 1976, Radium of the Word: A Poetics of Materi-ality



32 Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master. Kevin Prufer & Michael Duma-nis, editors. Pleiades Press, 2013

The Muntu Poets Of Cleveland. Uptown Media Joint Ventures, 2016

World'd Too Much: The Poetry of Russell Atkins. Kevin Prufer & Robert E. McDonough, edi-tors. Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2019

collector’s items 

33 visual typographic pre concrete era poems and concrete era poems availabe at: SPYRYTUAL with " marks is available on p 12, The Muntu Poets Of Cleveland. Cleveland: United Black Artists of Cleveland, Workshop and Press, and Free Lance Poets Press, 2016; a pdf of a scanned original chap book published by d. a. levy; and the marrahwanna quarterly, v., n.2, 1966, p36

His published poems can be found in View and Experiment (1946-47-50), Voices (1950); Beloit Poetry Journal (1951, 52-57; We stern Review, 1953-54; Free Lance , 1952-60; Ohio Poetry Re-view, 1958; Hearse, 1958-60; Anthology of World Poetry, Munchen: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1954); Botteghe Oscure, 1955. Casper LeRoy Jordan, PHENOM NA pdf.

34 Thanks to Mutawaf Shaheed for providing the name of Atkin’s neighborhood. For further so-cio-economic details see TomOrange’s essay, in Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an Amer-ican Master pp196-206.




38 SPYRYTUAL with " marks is available on p 12, The Muntu Poets Of Cleveland. Cleveland: United Black Artists of Cleveland, Workshop and Press, and Free Lance Poets Press, 2016; a pdf of a scanned original chap book published by d. a. levy; and the marrahwanna quarterly, v., n.2, 1966, p36


40 , Objects 1, 1961; 2, Objects 2, `1963; original 1950, Heretofore, 1968,  

41 Confirmed by Mutawaf Shaheed in an email with the assistance of Diane Kendig. Thanks too to John Burroughs for his efforts trying to answer the question of churches within the hearing distance of the Atkins home.

42 Objects 1 ibid

43 My matri side is rooted in Ohio with my mother’s parents; my mother and a sister were born in Cleveland. On my father’s side, his family were residents during the depression.

44 rjs, and Tom Kryss were about six years younger than Taylor and levy. They did not know At-kins personally nor it seems his poetry, other than as participants in the readings. 

45 zen concrete & etc. d.a.levy &. edited by Ingrid Swanberg. Madison: Ghost Pony Press, 1991.

the mimeograph revolution, Ingrid Swanberg and Larry Smith, editors. Huron: Bottom Dog Press, 2007



48 Greg Thomas, Border Blurs: Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019, p 20

49 The contributors are Jeffrey Steele, Paul de Vree, Mary Ellen Solt, Edwin Morgan, dom sylvester houédard, J.F. Hendry, Ian Hamilton Fin-lay and Ernst Jandl. 


51 Gran-dal_Montero_Gustavo_2015_From_Cambridge_to_Brighton_Concrete_Poetry_in_Britain_An_Interview_with_Stephen_Bann.pdf, p85 


53 email, Kent Taylor





58 The Marrahwanna Quarterly Vol 3, #3, p13, 1967

59 Taylor email

60 Joel Lipman email


62 Taylor is unsure of the specifics other than the newspapers were protecting the floor from paint drops. In another email Kent shared, “I found another error Marvin Sackner made through idle speculation--levy published a book by Sam as polluted lake series, #9 and in Iowa's listing Marvin wonders if Sam Dogin was a pseudonym for  levy. Nonsense--Dogin owned The Book Spot on Cleveland's east side and briefly hired levy.  Once again Marvin stumbles because he insists on reading more into simple facts  Marvin made similar errors again and again and the ones i have encountered have been by pure chance.”

63 Thanks to Cara Gilgenbach, librarian at Kent State for the research.



66 email from rjs

67 emails from rjs

68 outline


in depth video, “if i scratch, if i write” 

69 opening of Tomb stone as a lonely charm: a poem. d. a. levy. Sacramento, Calif., The Runci-ble Spoon, 1967-68. 

70 For those holding a grudge against Plato for kicking poets out of his Republic a deeper look into the reasoning is that for Plato poets of his time were not rendering the higher realms with accuracy.Plato was a devotee of Orpheus. Sufis embrace Plato.

71 James Schevill. The American Fantasies: Original End Papers and Page Illustrations by Bern Porter for James Schevill’s Poems The American Fantasies Published in Agana, Guam 1951, with Added Notes by James Schevill. 

72 my foot note for his link

73 my foot note for his link

74 my foot note for his link


76 d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution. p235

77 From Polkinhorn email: “One of the de Campos brothers was there, with his son, and he walked out of my presentation, in a grossly conspicuous fashion.”




This article could not have been written without the help of the following sources and individuals. A special thanks to Kent Taylor for the many hours of video chats sharing first hand experiences and insuring accuracy of the Cleveland related text; to Diane Kendig for her email exchanges and invaluable visit to Russell Atkins; to Mutawaf Shaheed for specifics on Russell Atkins and his neighborhood; to rjs for his on-hand accounts of the concrete scene, a copy of Don Thomas concrete poetry book, and also insuring accuracy of the Cleveland related text; to D. R. Wagner for sharing his experience with destructive writing by levy; and to Caryl A. Page for granting permission to reproduce poems by Russell Atkins. 

Additional edit, Philip Davenport, January 2022.


Cleveland Memory Project 

d.a.levy chronology

d.a.levy home page 

deep cleveland 


if i scratch, if i write 

Verdant Press 


Russell Atkins

John Burroughs

Geoffrey Cook

Jason Davis

Craig Dworkin

Diane Kendig

Joan Czaban Kinney

Tom Kryss

Joel Lipman

Robert E. McDonough

Caryl A. Page

Kevin Prufer


Mutawaf Shaheed

Larry Smith

Aumaine Rose Smith

Ingrid Swanberg

Kent Taylor

D. R. Wagner

Karl Kempton

Oceano, Ca

December, 2021