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UNT alum and poet gives readings at Q&A
Dana Levin has a sunny disposition as she entertains thoughtful questions with a friendly air. It might be hard to imagine such a jovial person writing poetry so severe, but the depths of her character are displayed as she holds this intellectual communion with fans and fellow poets.
Levin came to UNT to answer questions and read from her most recent book of poetry, “Sky Burial,” which was a finalist for UNT’s Rilke prize last year. Her Q&A session was held at the Golden Eagle suite in the Union building, where Levin gave dramatic readings of 11 poems exploring death, burial customs and grief.
“I didn’t feel compelled to memorialize people,” Levin said. “I felt like I was being asked to look at death.”
Coping with the tragic loss of both her parents and her sister, who all died within a four-year time period, Levin turned to intellectual stimulation and research as a relief from emotional trauma.
She began to learn about decomposition, death mythology and other cultures burial customs.
“Sky burial” is a Tibetan ritual in which a prepared corpse is placed on a mountaintop exposing it to predatory animals and the elements.
“I think terror is a component of beauty,” Levin said.
Levin finds an aesthetic wonder in intense subject matter, noting that even at a young age she had a desire to be disturbed, which is a driving factor for her interest in poetry.
“There are lots of different kinds of knowing,” Levin said. “Many different kinds of pleasure.”
Matt Mapes, a creative writing major who attended the event, feels Levin excels at writing from this distinct perspective.
“She embraces the uncomfortable, the things others would distance themselves from,” Mapes said.
Corey Marks, director of creative writing and a professor at UNT, coordinated the event. He felt the event was a success and was pleased the school hosted such a celebrated writer.
“I’ve taught her poetry in my classes,” Marks said. “We absolutely wanted her to come here.”