It is a sad day in our community as we announce the passing of the great Hudson Valley poet, editor, coordinator, and publisher Donald Lev.
Long-time friend, colleague, and neighbor Harvey Kaiser sent the word early in the morning via email:
“It is with great sadness that I must tell you of poet Donald Lev’s passing tonight,30 September at 9:54 pm in Kingston NY. I am consoled by the truth, that Donald, “Lucky in Love”, was also fortunate not to linger in his current,rapidly diminishing state, devoid even of the bare comforts that he permitted himself to indulge in recent times.”
Donald Lev was born in New York City in 1936. He attended Hunter College, worked in the wire rooms of the Daily News and New York Times, and then drove a taxi cab for 20 years (with a 6-year hiatus in which he ran messages for, and contributed poetry to, The Village Voice and operated the Home Planet Bookshop on the Lower East Side).
His earliest poems appeared in print in 1958 and he started his first small press magazine, HYN Anthology, in 1969. Among his honors have been a Madeline Sadin Award from New York Quarterly in 1973 and a Life Time Achievement Award from the Catskill Reading Society/Outloudbooks in 2003. He was Distinguished Visiting Poet for the Northeast Poetry Center in Sugar Loaf, NY in July of 2012. In 2008 Outloudbooks brought out his The Darkness Above: Selected Poems 1968-2002 a sampling from the first four decades of his writing. A chapbook, Only Wings: 20 Poems of Devotion was published in 2010 by Presa Press in Michigan, and a new collection, A Very Funny Fellow, was brought out by NYQ Books in February 2012. His most recent book, Where I Sit, was published by Presa Press in 2015.
Donald Lev’s poetry was also published in anthologies such as Do Not Go Gentle…Poems on Death (St. Martin’s Press, 1981), Ten Jewish American Poets(Downtown Poets, 1982), and A New Geography of Poets (University of Arkansas Press, 1992).
Donald hosted WNYC radio’s “Open Poetry” and coordinated poetry readings at The Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village, the Cafe Bookstore in Park Slope, The Day of the Poet in Stone Ridge, Outloud Festival held in the Catskills, and at many other venues.
His brief underground film-acting career pinnacled with his portrayal (he wrote his own lines) of “The Poet” in Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 classic Putney Swope. He lived in High Falls, NY, where he spent most of his time publishing the literary tabloid Home Planet News, which he and his late wife Enid Dame founded in 1979.
In January of this year, friends and poets including Ed Sanders, Mikhail Horowitz, Andy Clausen, and Pamela Twining got together at The Colony Cafe in Woodstock to help raise money for Donald to make much-needed repairs to his home.
There will be a graveside ceremony Farmingdale Long Island at New Montefiore Cemetery next to the grave of his beloved Enid Dame on Tuesday, October 9, at 1:00 p.m.
Tribute readings and memorials are in the process of being planned and will be announced soon.