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Within Within by Peter Levitt

Peter Levitt was born in New York City in 1946. He is a poet, translator, Zen teacher, and popular writing workshop leader. He has taught poetry and creativity workshops internationally, including at the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, Naropa Institute Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and as a faculty member in poetry and translation for the MFA Writers Program at Antioch University and in the University of British Columbia Creative Writing Optional Residency MFA Program.

He has published ten collections of poetry, including Within WithinOne Hundred Butterflies, and Bright Root, Dark Root.

His writing book Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom, was published to critical acclaim in 2003.

He co-translated A Flock of Fools: Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter with Kazuaki Tanahashi, and  he has published numerous fiction and literary translations from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.

Legendary poet, Robert Creeley, wrote that Peter Levitt’s poetry “sounds the honor of our common dance,” and in 1989 Peter received the prestigious six-figure Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry.

A longtime student of Zen, Peter Levitt edited Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic,The Heart of Understanding, and recently he served as Associate Editor of The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye – Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala Publications, 2010). He lives with his family on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

About Within Within

~ In his first full length book of poems since his move to Canada, master poet Peter Levitt discovers poetry everywhere in his adopted home. Here is a world-class poet at the very height of his craft. His poems part the everyday to reveal the remarkable jelly within. Whether he is gathering firewood, witnessing the startling attack of an eagle, playing with his son, reflecting on the death of his mother, enduring a grey, rainy winter, or remembering a recently departed friend, he captures it all with a fervor and depth of observation rare except in the very best poets.

These are complex, master works that know the world better than most. They reveal the interconnected fabric of it all in ways that will leave you stunned. This is a startling, mature work from a most gifted poet. Do not pass it by. ~ Robert Hilles

Pale Shadow

I rise early and walk to where light
enters the forest in silence

tentative as a new lover, my hands
leading me branch by branch

on the uneven path.  Overhead,
the powerful stroke of wings

through air causes me to stop.
A sound like feathered oars

as the morning hunt begins,
I can just make out the direction

before the soft whirring disappears.
Two summers past my wife

looked on as an eagle dove
without warning into a flock

of ducks floating lazily near the marsh
at Cusheon Lake.  The force of

the attack plunged the predator
beneath the surface as she watched

from shore.  Then the eagle lifted its huge
form above the water, shook and tried

to rise, its claws clutching prey.
“There was no way it could

lift off,” she told me.  “The killer
and killed had become one body

and the weight wed them where they were.”
Finally the eagle began to row,

he arched his great wings forward
into the lake and pulled against

death’s enormous weight
until he reached the shallows

where water lilies tangle among fallen limbs.
Then he dragged his prey into the soft grass

to hide among the reeds,
his shadow on the water the last

thing my wife could see.  There
is a silence that surrounds

this world of shadow and light,
an unmoving invisibility that clarifies

each thing as it is beside the next,
a membrane that shapes the detail,

one by one. It is how it all conjoins.
I walk in the woods beside

the river that rolls its soft tongue
among stones night and day.

It is not words that guide me,
not life or death or change or anything

I can name.  It is the stillness before any
name is given and the stillness just after,

the unseen body that lives in the space
between trees, or flows beneath the earth’s

green water.  I hold the image of the eagle’s
kill no different from the first time I saw

my children bathed in the birthing
blood that helped to keep them

alive.  All words, all that die
or kill and struggle to survive

are pale shadows, transparencies
that return to their source at such a time,

the unmoving ground beneath the ground
where we stagger, or stride.

Listen to Peter READ and discuss this poem.

Read a Review of Within Within by Dennis Grunes … A benefit of this blog is that it has reunited me with Peter Levitt, a fellow poet and friend from my Buffalo days when, students, we were both writing up a storm, Peter, already with considerably greater gifts, including the wholly natural one of his spirited “voice,” which has grown more mature over the past forty years or so. His latest collection, Within Within (Windsor, Ontario: Black Moss Press, 2008), marks his first book of poems since his move to Canada … Read Full Review

PURCHASE Within Within


Peter Levitt may be engaged to speak to your book club or host a workshop. Contact him through his WEBSITE.


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Posted by Pearl on Aug 9 2010. Filed under Poetry. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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