Work that enfaiths
I will never forget the first time I heard Denise Levertov read her poetry. In the late 1960s, when I was a fledgling writer in New York, I was thrilled to hear a poet I had found on my own in high school. As was the custom, Levertov was paired with a younger poet, one whose first book had garnered some attention in the literary world. The reading demonstrated that the younger poet's poems were fool's gold. She prefaced each one with a lengthy explication that made the poem seem like an anticlimax. These off-the-cuff stories were much livelier than the poems themselves, and I could see (or rather, hear) that the poems were mostly air, buoyed by a shallow cleverness and wit.
By the time Levertov had read one poem, I felt as if I had been offered a glass of cold, clear spring water. It was poetry, commanding attention in the way that scripture does. Her words had authority. These words were a gift, inviting me to respond with my whole heart.
This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $4.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.