Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday poem: Denise Levertov

A  Gift
by Denise Levertov

'Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.

You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.'
Denise Levertov (1923-1997) was a British born American poet whose poetry  moves with ease between private experience and larger political events.

As a poet and citizen Levertov was mobilised by the political events of the 60's and 70's , particularly the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War figures prominently in her poetry, most notably her 1967 collection Sorrow Dance, which is full of poems of outrage against the Vietnam War.

Levertov composed poems about contemporary political events, such as the Vietnam War, the peace movement, Cold War politics, war and violence and US financed wars in Central America in the 1980's and the Gulf War of 1991. Until her death in 1997, Levertov maintained an active commitment to justice and peace organizations, supporting them with benefit readings.

Her work demonstrates that contemplative poems can serve political ends by pointing us towards a vision for living that leads towards compassion, peace and justice and ultimately to meaningful social change.

Michael True writes, that in her poetry (and her life), Levertov:
"refused to surrender to that dissociation of sensibility that separates the individual person from the common life of all. 

No comments: