I recently caught up with poet, LOUISE LANDES LEVI, in Italy where she lives in a tower located in the hill-top village of Bagnore, on the slopes of Mt. Amiata, Tuscany, the highest mountain in Tuscany. Here she writes, tutors students in poetics and music, performs
locally in the cafes and writes. She sells books locally & to practitioners who come to study with Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, a Tibetan Dzogchen master, from points as far away as Japan & New Zealand, and to the international body of practitioners who travel to the area.
Both Louise and I were attending a retreat taught by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, with whom we’ve studied with for many years. Each day after the teachings, Louise would take me on a tour of the local region surrounding Mt.Amiata.
Here’s the visitor sign to Merigar where our retreat was held on the small road heading about 2 km uphill into a nature preserve on the slopes of Amiata where it appeared to be wild boar hunting season with blackberries in bloom all along the roadside. Merigar is located at the tip of this hill with views of farms and hay fields. Louise walks these roads between the complex of hill top villages in this rural part of Tuscany on ancient pathways as old as the Etruscans. Across from Merigar is a small mountain called Mt. LABRO, a mercurial mountain, where a prophet-- Catholic anarchist David Laszeretti, predicted the arrival of an 'oriental' teacher, some 100 years after his passing. Laszeretti was murdered by local police called in Italian, Carabinieri. Here, the 19th century visionary lived in an underground tomb of an Etruscan king. The entire region is a volcano with numerous sulphur springs that have been used medicinally since the time of the Romans.
Louise took me to such interesting sites such as Daniel Spoerri's extraordinary sculpture garden on his estate in Seggiano, the 12/13th century cave of St. Philippe and several local "poets" houses in the towns where they were remembered with a bronze markers-- all the while talking of poetry and dharma.
After many years of hearing about it or receiving post cards from her while living in her tower, I was finally able to visit it in person.
International poet, classical sarangi musician, scholar, and translator of Rene Daumal and Henri Michaux, Louise Landes Levi has traveled the globe for three decades. Her poetry books include, Banana Baby (Supernova, 2006), Avenue A & 9th Street (Shivastan, 2004), Chorma (Porto dei Santi, 2000) Guru Punk, (Cool Grove Press, 1999), Sweet on my Lips, Love poems of Mira Bai (Cool Grove Press, 1997), The House Lamps Have Been Lit (Supernova, 1996), Extinctions, (Left Hand Books, 1993), and Concerto, (City Lights, Accordian Series, 1988). Rene Daumal’s Rasa was published by New Directions in 1982 and most recently, Toward Totality (Vers La Completude) & Selected Works 1929-1973 of Henri Michaux (Shivastan, 2006) and Toward Totality I / Vers La Completude (Longhouse, 2006). Reviews, essays and poems have been published online in Big Bridge, Jacket, and Rain Taxi, among other publications.