Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was born in Ilford Essex, England in 1923 and passed away in December 1997. During her lifespan she converted from Judaism to Christianity, was educated entirely at home, had her first poem published at the age of 17 and became a nurse while also maintaining a prolific writing career. Even after her death, her poems were still being published. More about her can be found at the link included below at poets.org. I picked up her book Sands of the Well, published by New Directions Books in 1994, at the library.

While Levertov is plain-spoken, that is, every poem is readily understandable, there is grace and beauty in every one. There are two poems that I will focus on and the first is titled “Threat.” It speaks of the majestic beauty of a pinetree and the fear that comes from having one so near your house yet also the fear of losing it altogether. For example, her lines say: “You can live for years next door/to a big pinetree, honored to have/so venerable a neighbor, even/when it sheds needles all over your flowers/….” Then goes on to say “under respect, under your faith/in the pinetree’s beauty, there lies/the fear it will crash some day/…the fragility of the safe/dailiness you have almost/grown used to.”
What I love is that she has such respect, love, and fear all mixed in the same poem about nature and human’s nature towards it.

The second poem is “A Gift” and I simply cannot do this one justice by talking about it. I wish that I could. The poem is gorgeous and contemplative. The beginning lines are fabulous: “Just when you seem to yourself/nothing but a flimsy web/of questions…” and goes on to say that questions from others are being given to you so that “in the emptiness of your hands,/…butterflies opening and closing themselves/in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure/their scintillant fur, their dust.” Essentially the poem says the questions you ask of life that are never answered are replaced with questions from others that somehow satisfy your need for answers. Isn’t that a beautiful idea?

There are many pages of this book that I “dog-eared” where I liked the poem so much I wanted to go back and absorb it again and again. I hope you will find her equally satisfying when you come across her in your own library or book-store, or perhaps on the web.


Thanks for reading, please stop by tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound


Dave King said...

Thanks for introducing me to this poet, quite new to me. I have followed your link and looked him up, and, provisionally at least, agree with your assessment. I now need to look and read further.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I discovered Levertov whilst doing a review and have since bought a couple of her books, the more I read, the more i love her work. I enjoyed your post too,

Poet Hound said...

Thanks to both of you! This was my first encounter with Levertov and will be happily reading more as I discover more of her books.