Monday, August 18, 2014

Denise Levertov---Extraordinary Poet

"Old River" by my sister, Margaret.  There's nothing like Louisiana sky...unless it's sky & water.

*  Remember Mallarme's words that "Poems are not made with ideas, they are made with words."

*  Beware of consciously searching for the original; nothing is more likely to lead to the banal.  The fresh word is not necessarily the odd word.

*  Strength of feeling, reverence for mystery, and clarity of intellect must be kept in balance with one another.  Neither the passive nor the active must dominate, they must work in conjunction, as in a marriage.

~Denise Levertov on the craft of poetry, from "Women of the Beat Generation", page 205

^  ^  ^  ^  ^

Morning Glories, tangled & dewy, August 2006
Captive Flower
By Denise Levertov
This morning's morning-glory
trying to thrust
through the wire mesh towards the sun
is trapped
I ease it back
to see better its unfurling,
but only slowly it resigns
the dream. Its petals
are scarred.
I had not thought myself
a jailer


HuntingThe Phoenix
By Denise Levertov

Leaf through discolored manuscripts,
make sure no words
lie thirsting, bleeding,
waiting for rescue. No:
old loves half-
articulated, moments forced
out of the stream of perception
to play “statue,”
and never released —
they had no blood to shed.
You must seek
the ashy nest itself
if you hope to find
charred feathers, smoldering flightbones,
and a twist of singing flame


A Blessing
By Denise Levertov
'Your river is in full flood,' she said,
'Work on---use these weeks well!'
She was leaving, with springy step, a woman
herself renewed, her life risen
up from the root of despair she'd
bent low to touch,
risen empowered. Her work now
could embrace more; she imagined anew
the man's totem tree and its taproot,
the woman's chosen lichen, patiently
composting rock, another's
needful swamp, the tribal migrations---
swaying skeins rotating their leaders,
pace unflagging---and the need
of each threatened thing
to be. She had met
with the council
of all beings.
'You give me
my life,' she said to the just-written poems,
long-legged foals surprised to be standing.
The poet waving farewell
is not so sure of the river.
Is it indeed
strong-flowing, generous? Was there largesse
for alluvial, black, seed-hungry fields?
Or had a flash-flood
swept down these tokens
to be plucked ashore, rescued
only to watch the waters recede
from stones of an arid variety?
But the traveler's words
are leaven. They work in the poet.
The river swiftly
goes on braiding its heavy tresses,
brown and flashing,
as far as the eye can see.
From: "Breathing the Water", pages 6 - 7
I have this entire book of short essays highlighted, dog-eared and underlined.  It's a chocolate truffles or something way better.  :-)


erin said...

i believe what she has to say and wish i had a better patience, a better ability to coax and groom language, or a better ability to be coaxed or groomed myself by language. i come late to it all but with devotion. and like you, would be lost without poetry.


Marion said...

I, too, came back late to poetry..,although it was always in my memory banks. :-) I'm devouring daily as much as I can and still function on a semi-normal level, whatever that means. I love it when a poet new to me leads me to another poet, amd on and on till the end of time. They also often function as my muses or inspiratipn. Poetry is & has been my lifeline, both reading & writing it. Your work always inspires me, too, Erin. xo

Kelly said...

I have a Denise Levertov collection! :) I love the first of the three you shared here.

It's getting hot and steamy here, but I won't complain. It's been a lovely summer for the most part.

Marion said...

Kelly, you're right. It's been a mild summer hurricanes or tornadoes so far. Love & blessings, my friend. xo