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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Thursday, July 24, 2014

Subtexts: "The Water Leveling With Us" by Donald Levering

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Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014 5:00 am

The title poem of Donald Levering’s new collection, The Water Leveling With Us (Red Mountain Press), seeks continuity in our warming world. The timeless shifting of tides — “all the liquid drained from seashores here/fills fjords and coves in distant latitudes/the moon’s means for formulating perfect/equanimity on earth” — continues in the face of “avenging seas” and “villages submerged under cubic/miles of sluggish reservoirs.” He takes a political stance against this backdrop, finding absurdity: “On the other side of the planet/in that poppy growing land/the president wants us to bomb/a mouse is napping.” It’s a place where climate change progresses to the sound of Handel’s Water Music, and young boys line up in a school gym to “donate blood to the giant/who is leaking oil.” Yet beauty persists, in the sound of the words he chooses, the unexpected rhymes, and the promise of silent understanding: “A springtime revolution like shouting tulips/above the ticker scrolling soccer scores/in the lounge where we are reading lips.”

The poems in Michael G. Smith’s collection No Small Things (Tres Chicas Books) — rooted in Chinese poetry, Buddhism, and science — embrace that ancient human tradition of putting thoughts into words. One poem, “Contemplating Sex and Electrons, I Sew My Rakusu,” drops the name of poet Cold Mountain, who probably lived in the eighth century. Smith does this against the odds, chronicling a stroke and his recovery (“my brain had a clotting” is a repeated phrase). That he makes strange sense of it all — “My only losses are those/I hold on to” and “Who can recall under what darkness/awakening occurs?” — makes his work all the more joyful. He gives a free reading  at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 22, at Teatro Paraguas Studio (3205 Calle Marie, 505-424-1601).

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