In the US mail I received a certificate from the National Federation of Press Women for Second Place in the 2015 Creative Verse — Book category competition for The Water Leveling with Us, along with a typescript of the unnamed judge’s comments. The comments reveal a thorough reading of the book. The full text of the comments is below:
Water sinks to its lowest level; therefore, the title of Levering’s collection—by bringing water down to us—sets up readers for the text’s contemplation of the “big brained apes” we are, destroying ecosystems and moving toward planetary demise. Recalling our undeclared war on Viet Nam heightened by a president who “stokes fear in millions” and more recent reminders of costly warfare citing water boarding and drone pilots, Levering reserves his most stinging judgments for the decisions causing thawing permafrost with “avenging seas” and the debacle of the Deepwater Horizon Spill. His most singular and specific pieces are, inevitably, the most personal and personally moving. He mourns a sea turtle’s need for peace, protection, and most tellingly, hope for her hatchlings with the survival of her species increasingly beleaguered. He deplores the cruelty of the racehorse industry casually exploiting and destroying these animals bred for heavy muscles and tiny, fragile feet that easily shatter under stress. His generally straightforward language occasionally rises when referencing “the red mouth of a traffic light,” but remains steadfastly literal for the most part. Perhaps the most moving and encouraging piece brings us Kent Clegg in his ultralight aircraft leading young whooping cranes on an ancient migration route and teaching them “ancestral flyways…they didn’t know they knew.” The Water Leveling with Us’ hectoring anger and blame also contains some occasional, essential reminders that Clegg’s big brained ape’s conscious choice and the sea turtle’s instinct, anthropomorphized as “hope” may be all that’s realistically possible.