Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Birthday in October ~ Denise Levertov

Heavy, heavy, heavy, hand and heart.
We are at war,
bitterly, bitterly at war.

And the buying and selling
buzzes at our heads, a swarm
of busy flies, a kind of innocence.

{extract from Tenebrae (Fall of 1967) by Denise Levertov}

Denise Levertov
Publicity Photo (Source ?)
Fair Use
  Denise Levertov, was born on 24 October 1923. When she was five years old she declared she would be a writer. At the age of 12, she sent some of her poems to T. S. Eliot, who replied with a two-page letter of encouragement. In 1940, when she was 17, Levertov published her first poem. Her first book, The Double Image, was published six years later.
  In 1947, she married American writer Mitchell Goodman and moved with him to the United States the following year. Levertov's first two books had concentrated on traditional forms and language, but as she accepted the US as her new home, she became fascinated with the American idiom. She came under the influence of the Black Mountain poets. Her first American book of poetry, Here and Now, shows the beginnings of this transition and transformation. Her poem “With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads” established her reputation (I could find only one on-line copy HERE).

  During the 1960s and 70s, Levertov became more politically active in her life and work. As poetry editor for The Nation, she was able to support and publish the work of feminist and other leftist activist poets. The Vietnam War was an especially important focus of her poetry, which often tried to weave together the personal and political, as in her poem "The Sorrow Dance", which speaks of her sister's death. Both politics and war are major themes in Levertov's poetry. She felt it was part of a poet's calling to point out the injustice of the Vietnam War, and she also actively participated in rallies, reading poetry at some.
For more information about the poet, click HERE.

Levertov reads six of her poems in this video clip extract from an hour long reading she gave for the Lannon Foundation in Los Angeles in 1993. This video is copyright Lannan Foundation -1994- and posted on YouTube with permission.

The poems are: 'Settling', 'Open Secret', 'Tragic Error', 'The Danger Moment', 'A Gift' and 'For Those Whom the Gods Love Less'.

As Levertov's poetry is still under copyright, I hesitate to reproduce her work here but I do encourage a reading of her writing where it is available on-line. Goodreads has a selection of quotes from her poetry, and I have provided several links to individual poems on the site below.

In California During the Gulf War

The Great Black Heron

The Secret

When We Look Up

Our challenge today is to write a poem inspired by the work of Denise Levertov. Whether it be in response to her themes or style of writing is up to individual choice. Please write a new poem for this prompt. The Sunday Mini-Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon, in order to allow extra time for the creative process.


Ella said...

Thank you Kerry! I can't wait to read more of her work-what a gifted voice~
I hope you feel better~ It happens to us all! Take care of you...go borrow Jaime's camera and take some visual poetry or sketch!

hedgewitch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hedgewitch said...

An excellent challenge, Kerry. Very fond of Levertov. If I can dig my muse out of whatever caved-in cellar she's buried in, I will be back.

Scarlet said...

I enjoyed reading her poems specially the one of Peace ~

Thanks for the wonderful post Kerry ~ Happy weekend to all ~


Susan said...

Wonderful to rediscover Levertov through your prompt, Kerry. I enjoyed spending several hours in her presence.

Kay L. Davies said...

Unfamiliar with Levertov, I've only read the poem in the first link so far, and am already impressed. I loved
cut of limestone, echoing
with hidden rivers" because it touches my life experience.
Now I must read some more, and see what inspiration comes.

Anonymous said...

well, it's 3:15 am here, and so if this write seems groggy I'll rework or bury it later in the morning. :) Kerry, thanks for the refresher, it's been years since I read Levertov. ~ M

Margaret said...

Had my two college "kids" home this weekend so that made SIX and a full house. This mama was very happy, but I didn't get to touch my computer. Will try and get something up and visit on Monday.