Denise Levertov was a British-born American poet.
Born in Ilford, Essex, England, her mother, Beatrice Spooner-Jones Levertoff, was Welsh. Her father, Paul Levertoff, immigrated to England from Germany, was a Russian Hassidic Safardic Jew who became an Anglican priest. While being educated at home, Levertov showed an enthusiasm for writing from an early age. When she was five years old, she said later in life, 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.
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Denise Levertov Poems
What Were They Like?
Did the people of Viet Nam use lanterns of stone? Did they hold ceremonies to reverence the opening of buds?
Two girls discover the secret of life in a sudden line of poetry.
A Tree Telling of Orpheus
White dawn. Stillness.When the rippling began I took it for sea-wind, coming to our valley with rumors of salt, of treeless horizons. But the white fog didn't stir; the leaves of my brothers remained outstretched,
To the Snake
Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck and stroked your cold, pulsing throat as you hissed to me, glinting arrowy gold scales, and I felt
Bearing the Light
The Ache of Marriage
The ache of marriage: thigh and tongue, beloved, are heavy with it,
Some people, no matter what you give them, still want the moon.
Everything That Acts Is Actual
From the tawny light from the rainy nights from the imagination finding itself and more than itself
Talking to Grief
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you like a homeless dog who comes to the back door for a crust, for a meatless bone.
When I found the door I found the vine leaves speaking among themselves in abundant whispers.
The fire in leaf and grass so green it seems each summer the last summer.
Variation on a Theme by Rilke
A certain day became a presence to me; there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light: a being. And before it started to descend from the height of noon, it leaned over
Brilliant, this day – a young virtuoso of a day. Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors, deft hands. And every prodigy of green – whether it's ferns or lichens or needles
The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason. That's why the taste of it drove us from Eden. That fruit was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
Quotationsmore quotations »
The poem has a social effect of some kind whether or not the poet wills it to have. It has kinetic force, it sets in motion ... [ellipsis in source] elements in the reader that would otherwise be stag...Denise Levertov (b. 1923), U.S. poet. As quoted in Against Forgetting, sect. 5, by Carolyn Forche (1993). Written in 1965, during the Vietnam War;...
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What Were They Like?
Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?
Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned ...