Catching Up with Arden Levine

Where can we read some of your recent work?

 I have two poems in the current issue of Cream City Review, and in 2018-19, my poems appeared (online) in The Lifted Brow, The Offing, and Cagibi (Best of the Net Nomination), as well as (in print) Harvard Review, Indiana Review, No Dear, and Permafrost.

Also, representing the hometown: New work of mine was included in Underwater New York’s special issue on labor and laborers in the city’s waterways (with illustrations by dear friend and poet-artist Rico Frederick); I guest-edited the 2019 National Poetry Month issue of (NYC-based) Bodega Magazine; and I had poems performed at Emotive Fruition’s live event, Let Lightning Set Us On Fire, this past February. (Grab the limited edition chapbook or read about the show in Playbill…)

What are you reading right now?

 I recently re-read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, encountering in its natural context that oft-quoted rhetorical “Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?” Our great national temperature-taking (pandemic and political reckoning) has me (over)thinking about vulnerable bodies, how they fail or fight, who defiles or defends them. No shortage of lodestar authors writing from that direction; here are two whose books are new (2019):

t’ai freedom ford, & more black: ford asks “is the body possible? or do i / merely exist as a melancholy gesture – / self-portrait as shrug   eye-roll   blank stare / sacrificing shadow  the body remains”.  In these poems, a body experiences nearly every state of being (affection, destruction, elation, exhaustion), and the reader feels, physically, along with it. ford holds us (and her perfectly-controlled lines) in a tight fist and takes us all dancing, and we didn’t realize how badly we needed to dance.

Leigh Camacho Rourks, Moon Trees and Other Orphans: The bodies of women in these swamp-soaked Southern stories do everything – slice skin and fire shotguns with dismaying accuracy, deal in contraband breastmilk and deliver unusual UPS packages, get baptismally drenched and literally catch fire. Camacho Rourks knows exactly when to flick from the wrist and when to push from the shoulder, and there’s something so satisfying for a reader in thinking, over and over, Dear heavens, how did she pull off that trick? 

What’s next for you?

Concentrating primarily on my day job in housing affordability, homelessness prevention, and equitable community development. (Here’s one project that New Yorkers, and others, should know about.) Also: Listening, donating, dignifying, bearing witness, being grateful.

And, perhaps, chapbooks? I’ve completed two manuscripts: one contemplates how the female story becomes documented, the other studies the calamities that assemble around loss by suicide. No takers yet, but they remain earnest suitors, shyly extending bouquets at each open reading period (and occasionally receiving the coy wink of finalist status).

Bio:

Arden Levine’s poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Sixth Finch, and RHINO, and have been featured by Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and WNYC’s Radiolab.  Arden is a career urban planner living and working in New York City.