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Coltrane's God

On Sunday, December 13th, at 5:00 PM, Red Mountain Press will launch prize-winning poet Donald Levering’s new book,

  Coltrane’s God, with a reading and book-signing. Santa Fe poet John Macker will introduce the event. It will take place at Teatro Paraguas, 3205 Calle Marie in Santa Fe.


The launch of Coltrane’s God caps a banner year for the former NEA Fellow. In February, Levering’s $1,000 prize-winning long poem, “The World Recast by Flash Cards,” was posted online by Literal Latté.  In the spring, he was invited to read at the Telluride Talking Gourds Festival where his poem, “Barrelhouse” won First Runner-up for the Mark Fischer Prize. In July, his previous book, The Water Leveling with Us, placed second in the National Federation of Press Women’s competition in Creative Verse. In September, he was accepted for a coveted artist residency at Wallapa Bay next April.  Also during 2015, several journals accepted his poems, including Southern Poetry Review, Stand, and The Surfer’s Journal. In addition, the Winter 2015 issue of The Malpais Review featured an interview with Levering and a generous sample of his work.


Coltrane’s God, Levering’s 7th full-length collection of poems, is a departure from his recent books,

which have focused on environmental and human rights issues. Instead, love of music and honor for musicians are the heart of Coltrane’s God. Among the players in his joyful tribute to the “language of emotion,”are a street busker wailing laments in the rain, a choir boy with changing voice, an itinerant fiddler, romping barrelhouse piano players, and a woman singing scat in a tram tunnel. A prose opening section recalls the author’s introduction to music in the era of transistor radios and sock hops. One of the book’s motifs is “ear worms,” music that gets stuck in your head, ranging from Mozart to “The Bristol Stomp” to Oliver Nelson’s scales of braided horns. In the title poem, the voice of the god of John Coltrane admonishes the famed sax player to “blister their ears with arpeggios.”


The book is garnering praise from other writers. Dorset-prize winner Lauren Camp says that “In Coltrane’s God, the landscape of life opens though music. Even the sad is insulated with sound. These poems are intoxicated with chords and changes.”  The musician-poet Kevin Rabas, author of Bird’s Horn, writes, “Levering’s Coltrane’s God is a hip, historical collection of “flatted thirds and sevenths,” full of those characteristic, jazzy blue notes, poems sung as if through saxophone and smoke. Levering has an ear and eye for jazz, and what he writes here is part history, part song, following a lineage of jazz poets, including Hughes, Kerouac, Baraka, Carruth, Harper, and Mackey.”


The reading is free and open to the public; donations to the theater are welcome. Refreshments will be offered during the book signing.


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