Monday, November 29, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 11 (Denise Levertov)


Poems 1960-1967
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Levertov, Denise
Poems 1960-1967


Purchased, I think, at Rust Belt books.

I bought this while I was reading the Duncan/Levertov letters. I've discussed those before, but in case you missed it or forgot, I think their correspondence is possibly the most significant literary correspondence of its era, right up there with the Creeley/Olson letters.

Their relationship came to a dramatic and seemingly sudden end over their disagreements about the role of poetry vis-a-vis the politics of Vietnam War protest. Both Levertov and Duncan were stridently anti-war, but both chose different means to express this in their poetry.

Duncan spoke openly about politics in his poetry of this era, but mostly did so in a way that attempted to account for it within the mytho-poetic framework he'd contrived, whereas Levertov began writing poems whose primary purpose was to serve the anti-war movement by engaging openly, plainly, and directly with the politics of the moment.

Duncan accused her of throwing over the poetry in favor of the politics, and over the course of four or five letters basically put an end to a two-decades-old friendship.

Anyhow, I bought this volume to read some of the poems that so incensed Duncan. I discovered later that those poems were mostly published in the collections that followed this, written between 1967 and 1971. Alas, I didn't get around to buying that one.

from Poems 1960-1967

A Day Begins

A headless squirrel, some blood
oozing from the unevenly
chewed-off neck

lies in rainsweet grass
near the woodshed door.
Down the driveway

the first irises
have opened since dawn,
ethereal, their mauve

almost a transparent gray,
their dark veins
bruise-blue.

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