Donald Levering’s 16th book of poetry, Breaking Down Familiar, grapples with a host of harrowing assaults to the narrator and his family: illness and accidents, addiction and madness, estrangement and divorce. Yet as mind and body falter, as faith is undermined and relationships sunder, as aging parents can neither be changed or saved and former athletes tally their infirmities, previously obscured strengths emerge—as a ruined golfer in one poem says, “Your character is revealed/in the handicap you claim.” Finally, the poems re-enact the family’s reconstitution, the way in the eponymous poem, shattered bottle pieces are refashioned into artisans’ sea glass crafts.
Born in Kansas City, KS, Donald Levering grew up there and in Oceanside, NY. A former NEA Fellow, he won the Tor House Robinson Jeffers Award, selected by Eavan Boland; the Carve Poetry Prize, judged by Carmen Giménez Smith; and the Literal Latté Poetry Award. Levering’s work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac podcast. His Coltrane’s God was Runner-up in the New England Book Festival contest and The Water Leveling With Us placed 2nd in the National Federation of Press Women contest. He lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where he volunteers as a US Citizenship Tutor and Kitchen Angel.