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December 21, 2008 Santa Fe, New Mexico From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Dana Levin was raised in Lancaster, California. She received a BA from Pitzer College in 1987 and an MFA from New York University in 1992.

She is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), Wedding Day (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), and In the Surgical Theatre (Copper Canyon Press, 1999), which was selected by Louise Glück to receive the APR/Honickman First Book Prize.

About her debut, In the Surgical Theatre, which also received the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, Glück writes, “Sensuous, compassionate, violent, extravagant: what an amazing debut this is, a book of terrors and marvels.”

In an interview with The Kenyon Review, Levin says, “I’ve come to see that I compose many poems as dramas, enactions. Therefore, pace and volume must be attended to, for essentially I am trying to render the sound of feeling (and/or the pace of thinking).”

Levin has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation, among others. She has previously taught at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and the College of Santa Fe. She currently serves as a distinguished writer in residence at Maryville University. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Wedding Day (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
In the Surgical Theatre (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)


You don't have to break it. Just give it a little 

tap tap. See,

there's the crack. And if you pry it a little
         with the flat end of that spoon,

you'll be able to slip yourself through.


To the woods where you're walking. Crushed ice above you
         like a layer of sky—

Some sun under it making it gleam.

Some snow under it bloodless and bright

in the fissured heart, the winter morgue of its imagined


Where you can find her—

Sprawled, face down, in the snow—

Bracing herself up, a puff of ice at her chin, then seizing
         and dying all over again—

Automaton. You prop her up.

And it’s like shaking a doll, How dare it, How dare it—



good is she for, there in her dying machine?

You push her shoulders back against the trunk of the tree,
         her chest’s so cold it cracks—

so you can slip yourself through. 
         To the woods she's been walking, 

         wondering where the living have gone.

Copyright © 2008 by Dana Levin. First appeared in Salmagundi. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2008 by Dana Levin. First appeared in Salmagundi. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Dana Levin

Dana Levin

Dana Levin is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), among others. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

by this poet

In the moment between
the old heart and the new
two angels gather at the empty chest.

The doctors flow over them as winds, as blurs, unnoticed but as currents
around this body, the flesh of the chest peeled back
as petals, revealing

a hole.
In it

the layers are fluttering—the back muscle, the bone, the chrome
I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Having rowed a little farther away from the cliff

Which is my kind of religion

Adrift in the darkness but readying oars

How can there be too many stars and hands, I ask you


I would be disingenuous if I said "being

The mind sports god-extensions.

It's the mountain from which
        the tributaries spring: self, self, self, self—

        rivering up
                on curling plumes
        from his elaborate

                of smoke.