Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was born in 1923 in London and educated at home by her mother. Her formal education ended at age twelve, though she studied ballet for a time thereafter and was a lifelong autodidact and student of the arts, literature and languages. Her first book of poems, The Double Image, was published by Cresset Press, London in 1946 and in 1948 she came to the U.S. as the wife of Mitchell Goodman, who had been studying in Europe on the G.I. Bill. 

Levertov was introduced to the American reading public through The New British Poets, an anthology edited by Kenneth Rexroth and published by New Directions. From the early 1950s, she and her husband were political and antiwar activists. Levertov taught at University of Massachusetts, Boston, Tufts University, and at Brandeis. For a time, she taught part of the year at Brandeis and the other part at Stanford University, which she also received tenure from. Along with the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award in poetry and the Lannan Prize, she won the 1996 Governor’s Writers Award, from the Washington State Commission for the Humanities. She died of lymphoma on December 20, 1997, in Seattle and is survived by her son Nikolai Goodman. Levertov published more than thirty books with New Directions.

The Collected Poems Of Denise Levertov

Poetry by Denise Levertov

At last, a complete, clear, and unobstructed view of Denise Levertov. Covering more than six decades and including, chronologically, every poem she ever published, Levertov’s Collected Poems presents her marvelous, groundbreaking work in full. Born in England, Denise Levertov emigrated in 1948 to the United States, where she was acclaimed by Kenneth Rexroth in the New York Times as “the most subtly skillful poet of her generation, the most profound, the most modest, the most moving.…
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Making Peace

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov achieved recognition as a poet at a young age, winning the admiration of such older poets as T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams. Though she initially drew a line between her poetic works and her commitment to peace and justice, the Vietnam War inspired a change, and at the time of her death in 1997, she was acclaimed not only for her poetry, but also for her political engagement.…
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Selected Poems of Denise Levertov

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Drawing on six decades of her writing life, this Selected Poems offers a chronological overview of Denise Levertov’s great body of work. Here at last is a clear, unobstructed view of her groundbreaking poetry — the work of a poet who, as Kenneth Rexroth put it, “more than anyone, led the redirection of American poetry … to the mainstream of world literature.”
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Poems 1972-1982

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Here, for the first time in a single edition, are three of Denise Levertov’s finest books: The Freeing of the Dust (1975), Life in the Forest (1978), and Candles in Babylon (1982). This new compilation – beginning where Denise Levertov’s Poems 1968-1972 left off– testifies not only to Levertov’s technical mastery, but also to her spiritual vision. Some of Levertov’s best war poems, the result of her visit to North Vietnam in 1972, are contained in this marvelous collection.…
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This Great Unknowing

Poetry by Denise Levertov

When Denise Levertov died on December 20, 1997, she left behind forty finished poems which form her last collection, This Great Unknowing. Few poets have possessed so great a gift or so great a body of work––upon her death at age 74, she had been a published poet for more than half a century. Although the poems of This Great Unknowing were not organized by Levertov herself, as were the twenty collections she published with New Directions in her lifetime, the poems themselves shine with the artistry of a writer at the height of her powers.…
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The Letters Of Denise Levertov And William Carlos Williams

Nonfiction by Denise Levertov

The Letters of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams is the most engaging and lively of literary correspondences – at once a portrait of two geniuses the testimony of their remarkable friendship, and a seedbed of ideas about American poetry. With a 1951 fan letter, the young British poet introduced herself to Williams, and by 1959, Williams is congratulating Levertov on her growth: “this book challenge[s] me so that I am glad I am not younger….…
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Sands of the Well

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Sands of the Well shows Denise Levertov at the height of her powers — and graced with new depths of awe. In eight sections — “Crow Spring,” “Sojourns in the Parallel World,” “It Should be Visible,” “Anamnesis,” “Representations,” “Raga,” “A South Wind,” and “Close to a Lake” — Sands of the Well addresses the natural world, music, memory, aging, and belief. Her long study of the nature of spiritual insight here finds an ever more active professed engagement.…
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The Life Around Us

Fiction by Denise Levertov

As Denise Levertov comments in her brief foreword to The Life Around Us, she has “shared with most poets in every time and place an ardent love of what my eyes and other senses revealed to me in the world we call nature. Yet in this selection of sixty-two poems chosen by the author “celebration and fear of loss are necessarily conjoined.” The Life Around Us shows us both the eternal renewal of the natural world and its imperilment: “In these last few decades of the 20th century it has become ever clearer to all thinking people that although we humans are a part of nature ourselves, we have become, in multifarious ways, an increasingly destructive element within it, shaking and breaking ’the great web’—perhaps irremediably.…
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The Stream And The Sapphire

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Conceived as a convenience to those readers who are themselves concerned with doubt and faith, The Stream & the Sapphire presents a compact thematic grouping of thirty-eight poems, originally published in seven separate volumes. The earliest poem here dates from 1978, and though the sequence is not wholly chronological, “it does,” as Denise Levertov remarks in her brief Foreword, “to some extent, trace my slow movement from agnosticism to Christian faith, a movement incorporating much of doubt and questioning as well as affirmation.…
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Tesserae

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Tesserae, the small individual pieces of glass or stone that make up a mosaic, is an apt title for this series of memoirs by Denise Levertov. Rather than being a completed autobiography, these collected memoirs are, for the author, fragments of an unfinished mosaic. Each of the twenty-seven pieces of Tesserae explores a memory vital to Levertov’s life; each is complete in itself and set here chronologically. And, as in any good mosaic, each piece reflects at different angles creating a play of light which gives this self-portrait its living complexity.…
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Evening Train

Poetry by Denise Levertov

At her most moving and meditative, impressive and musical, Denise Levertov addresses in her poetry collection, Evening Train, the nature of faith and love, the imperiled beauty of the natural world, and the horrors of the Gulf War.
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Selected Essays of Denise Levertov

Nonfiction by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov’s New & Selected Essays gathers three decades’ worth of the poet’s most important critical statements. Her subjects are various-––poetics, the imagination, politics, spirituality, other writers––and her approach independent minded and richly complex. Here in a single volume are recent essays exploring new ground broken by Levertov in the past decade as well as the finest and most useful prose pieces from The Poet in the World (1973) and Light Up the Cave (1981).…
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A Door In The Hive

Poetry by Denise Levertov

In her sixteenth collection of new poetry from New Directions, Denise Levertov displays what The Village Voice has called all her “virtues of musicality, mystery, and directness.” A Door in the Hive addresses paintings, music, landscapes, terror in El Salvador, but the emphasis again––as in her recent Breathing the Water––is on the contemplative. Her dialogue between “the eager inward gaze and the vast enigma” deepens. Meditative, the poems are at the same time informed by a keenly felt urgency: “Extremities, we are in/unacknowledged extremis.…
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Breathing The Water

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Arranged in seven parts and culminating in the superb “The Showings: Lady Julian of Norwich,” Breathing the Water draws the readers deep into spiritual domains––not in order to leave the world behind, but to reanimate our sometimes dormant love for it.
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Poems 1968-1972

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov’s Poems 1968-1972 gathers together all the poems from Relearning the Alphabet (1970), To Stay Alive (1971), and Footprints (1972). Testifying to Levertov’s growing strength and technical mastery as a poet, Poems 1968-1972 also affirms the clarity of her vision in its resistance to the Vietnam War and its “opposition to the whole system of insane greed of which war is only the inevitable expression.”
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Oblique Prayers

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Over the years, Denise Levertov’s poetry has moved ever more deeply into the realm of meditation, while yet speaking with the familiar voice of “the poet in the world.” Oblique Prayers is arranged in four thematic sections that, taken together, work toward a mature philosophy in equal harmony with public activism and private reflection. A personal mood links the poems of “Decipherings.” In “Prisoners,” the poet addresses the continuing horrors of our dark time: genocide, imperialism, impending nuclear holocaust––human degradation in brutal political guise.…
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Poems 1960-1967

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov’s Poems 1960-1967 brings together all of the poetry first published in The Jacob’s Ladder (1961), O Taste and See (1964), and The Sorrow Dance (1967). This new compilation, beginning where her Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960 (New Directions, 1979) left off, shows both a refining of the poet’s craft and a widening of her concerns.” We are living our whole lives in a state of emergency,” she wrote in 1967.…
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Candles In Babylon

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov’s Candles in Babylon evinces both the inner strength gained by a life of social commitment and the quiet wisdom born of solitude. The seventy-one poems in the book—her first full collection since Life in the Forest (1978)— are grouped into several thematic sections that explore by turns the subtleties in the shifting balance between our public and private selves, the poet’s voice ranging from the wry satire of her “Pig Dreams” sequence to the resonant grandeur of her six-part “Mass for the Day of St.…
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Light Up the Cave

Fiction by Denise Levertov

Light Up the Cave is the poet Denise Levertov’s second book of prose. Like her first, The Poet in the World (1973), it includes fiction, essays, and articles, and addresses a wide range of concerns, both public and private. The collection is divided into six parts, opening with three short stories. The second section, “The Nature of Poetry,” contains pieces about craft, with particular focus on the musical function of the line, as well as the ethical implications of poetry.…
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Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov’s Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960 brings under one cover the first published works of a poet who, though born and raised in Great Britain, has long held a distinctive place in postwar American letters. Initiating a major literary undertaking, the volume includes a group of hitherto ungathered poems, selections from Ms. Levertov’s earliest book, The Double Image (1946), published in London, and her three following collections in their entirety: Here and Now (1957), Overland to the Islands (1958), and With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads (1960).…
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Life In The Forest

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Life in the Forest is Denise Levertov’s first major collection since the publication in 1975 of The Freeing of the Dust, winner of the Leonore Marshall Poetry Prize, and is her eleventh book with New Directions, in a connection of nearly twenty years’ standing. Ms. Levertov’s work holds that tenuous yet inspiring ground between reflection and discourse. The dynamics of this sensitive balance is pointed up in Life in the Forest by a thematic grouping which invites internal association from poem to poem and section to section.…
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The Freeing Of The Dust

Poetry by Denise Levertov

In the sixty poems that comprise The Freeing of the Dust, Denise Levertov continues to explore the personal and public themes that have threaded through her work in the past several years. The disastrous American involvement in Indochina, relations with family and close friends, are depicted with unique poignancy as she pits the at times terrifying concrete image against her vision of the ideal. Here we have poems that speak out of the direct tragedy of war, the result of Ms.…
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Footprints

Poetry by Denise Levertov

About two thirds of the poems in Denise Levertov’s Footprints were written concurrently with the long “notebook” poem that began to take shape in Relearning the Alphabet (1970) and reached full expression in To Stay Alive (1971), to which it lent its name. Most of the remaining material was composed subsequently. Readers familiar with these previous volumes, so emphatically political in theme, will discover a more reflective tone, indeed a note which touches on the mystical, pervading this newest collection.…
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Relearning The Alphabet

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Miss Levertov’s work has always been notable for its technical perfection––her unique control of verbal tone, line patterns and structure––but Relearning the Alphabet contains an impressive new dimension: an enlargement of scale, and an assurance, that have led her to poems of greater length and even deeper social commitment than she had attempted before. Many of her themes may still be personal––the loss of a friend’s child, a snail’s vision, a flea from a loving dog, her responses to nature––but more are now public: the Vietnam War, Biafra, ghetto riots, the battle of the Berkeley People’s Park in which she took part.…
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The Jacob’s Ladder

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov is surely one of the most impressive of the younger poets writing in English today. Her earlier books (Here and Now, Overland to the Islands, With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads) were notable on several counts: technically, for her fine ear and her skill with free but controlled forms; in their substance, for the intensity––and clarity––of her very personal vision. These qualities persist in The Jacob’s Ladder, and to them has been added––particularly in the powerful sequence on themes suggested by the Eichmann trial––a larger social concern, a more penetrating identification with the great problems of humanity.…
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With Eyes At The Back Of Our Heads

Poetry by Denise Levertov

Miss Levertov’s third book of poetry, With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads, is now reissued as a paperbook. M. L. Rosenthal said of it, “She gives it’s a world of awakened, contemplated selfhood,” and Donald Hall: “She handles the movement of free verse with consistent brilliance.” The collection opens with a translation from an ancient Toltec Codex, a poem on The Artist. “The true artist,’’ wrote the Toltec poet, ’’maintains dialogue with his heart, meets things with his mind.…
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