Thursday, August 7, 2014

I spent much of yesterday copying out the poems of Denise Levertov. She is a poet whose work I have known but not known; and as the summer wanes and I am beginning to feel myself opening again into my own work, I thought I'd see if she might be a door. She is.

Here's the opening of "For Instance":
Often, it's nowhere special: maybe
a train rattling not fast or slow
from Melbourne to Sydney, and the light's fading,
we've passed that wide river remembered
from a tale about boyhood and fatal love, written
in vodka prose, clear and burning--
Levertov is a poet who trusts the twists and turns of her sentences; a poet of elegy and moral rectitude, with a graciousness of gaze; who forgives and does not forgive. I copied out her poems, and outside my window two crows argued; a mob of bees bumbled among the thyme flowers; the cat tore apart a frog.

"Once a woman went into the woods," writes Levertov, in "Sound of the Axe."
The birds were silent. Why? she said.
Thunder, they told her,
thunder's coming.
If the birds were silent, who were "they"? The poem has no interest in answering that question.

Today will be another day of cloud and sun and rain and wind. The heavens are chaotic this week. The clothes on the line have been wet for three days, and the lettuce in the garden is coated with mud. I am trying to be a good girl, to do my work, to extract patience, though I am too old to be a girl. I imagine cultivating a fine carelessness.

"Everything is threatened," writes Levertov, in "In the Woods,"
                 but meanwhile
everything presents itself:
the trees, that day and night
steadily stand there, amassing
lifetimes and moss.
For now, the air is quiet, but already clouds arrange their formations, a regimental swirl blotting the hapless blue. I should close my eyes and work.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

I'm glad I purchased her collected poems, fascinating to read in tracing the arc of her development and the issues she pursued. Your description of her approach to her art is right on.