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Denise Levertov
Posted by: Talia (
Date: April 09, 2004 12:16PM

I think I really like her stuff. Anyone else?

Seeing For A Moment

I thought I was growing wings—
it was a cocoon.

I thought, now is the time to step
into the fire—
it was deep water.

Eschatology is a word I learned
as a child: the study of Last Things;

facing my mirror—no longer young,
the news—always of death,
the dogs—rising from sleep and clamoring
and howling, howling,

I see for a moment
that's not it: it is
the First Things.

Word after word
floats through the glass.
Towards me.
A Woman Alone

When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
climbing . . .
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that it's late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change . . .
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon . . .
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
She has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body—how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than the looks. At her happiest
—or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue—
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself . . .
She knows it can't be:
that's Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.

The well

At sixteen I believed the moonlight
could change me if it would.
I moved my head
on the pillow, even moved my bed
as the moon slowly
crossed the open lattice.

I wanted beauty, a dangerous
gleam of steel, my body thinner,
my pale face paler.
I moonbathed
diligently, as others sunbathe.
But the moon's unsmiling stare
kept me awake. Mornings,
I was flushed and cross.
It was on dark nights of deep sleep
that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well,
and woke rested, and if not beautiful,
filled with some other power.
The Love of Morning

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we've lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .

God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight's gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;

but on gray mornings,
all incident - our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth's
beloved dust, leading the way - all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: April 09, 2004 01:50PM

I know she has many fans, but I cannot be counted among their number. Even after reading the above, I don't remember a word of it. Well, eschatology, sure. But other than that, I mean.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: April 09, 2004 03:49PM

My mother was (is) a great admirer of Denise Levertov.

They met once at a reception.

My mother gushed -- she knew she was saying too much, too fast, just blurting out praise for her work and how much it meant to her.

Ms. Leveroov didn't say a word.
She just smiled at my mother and PURRED.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: ph (
Date: April 10, 2004 12:45AM

Oh, yeah! I'm a fan.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Talia (
Date: April 10, 2004 11:08AM

I looked her up becasue my prof recommended her. I don't see a whole lot of connections to my work, but I guess that only means I need to look closer.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Talia (
Date: April 10, 2004 11:10AM

How old is your mother and what is it that she connects with her work? (if you know) Just curious. I know DL was anti-Vietnam, but turned more to religious poetry (at least that's the explanation I got from my prof.)

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: April 11, 2004 12:06PM

Strange as it may seem, I saw some of Marian's mother's artwork on display at a gallery in Albuquerque last month. Geometric drawings. I didn't have time to go back for the reception that evening, but I found them interesting. Dunno how she did them. Computer-generated, perhaps?

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: April 12, 2004 11:36AM

Barbara Bock (the artist in Albuquerque) is my step-mother. Believe it or not, those geometric drawings are done entirely BY HAND. She does use rulers and t-squares for the preparatory sketches, but the final work is done entirely with pencil in hand on plain paper.

Layeh Bock (the poet in Berkeley) is my mother -- she's the one who met Denise Levertov. She's also the author of the poem "J. Edgar Hoover Enters Heaven," which I posted on the forum some months back.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: Luke Ford (
Date: September 22, 2004 01:19AM

How do I contact your mother Layeh Bock? I remember I used to talk to her by phone in early 1993 when I was chronically ill. She was so smart and kind.

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: peternsz (
Date: September 22, 2004 01:46AM

I guess I should tell my Levertov story. When I was working in an antiquarian book story late in my bookstore phase, a small, woman came in asking about books on photography...I showed her what we had, we chatted about books and photography etc. She gave me her credit card, when I read it, a looked up at her and said, "Are you the Denis Levertov who make that name famous?" She said, she was, that was a way of putting it. I told her I was a student of Bob Creeley and that I'd heard her read at Harvard 1974. She mentioned he'd been the person who'd brought her over here for the first time.

I find her craftmanship quite effecting, and I have studied under writers who have found her simply uneffecting. So I guess, as I used to tell my students, you pays your dues, and you makes your choice -- not every good writer is for every good reader.







Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: September 22, 2004 04:22AM

Tried to find J Edgar Hoover Enters Heaven, which Marian NYC posterd ' a while back' and couldn't - can anyone provide a link?

Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 22, 2004 06:21AM

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Re: Denise Levertov
Posted by: ilza (
Date: September 22, 2004 08:41AM

I agree ( and so much !) with Peter that
not every good poet is for every good reader

I believe I am a good reader
I like some of her poems, but not all of them
The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

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