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Denise Levertov :)
Transcript of Denise Levertov :)
-suburban town Early Life Later Life Later Writing Career Significant Works Literary Period What Were They Like? Background! Analysis! Literary Criticism-Positive Literary Criticism-Negative Europe "Humanitarian politics came early into my life: seeing my father on a soapbox protesting Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia; my father and sister both on soap-boxes protesting Britain's lack of support for Spain; my mother canvasing long before those events for the League of Nations Union; and all three of them working on behalf of the German and Austrian refugees from 1933 onwards… I used to sell the Daily Worker house-to-house in the working class streets of Ilford Lane" 1948 1923 The Double Image (1946)
Here and Now (1956)
With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads (1959)
O Taste and See: New Poems (1964)
Life At War (1968)
To Stay Alive (1971)
What Were They Like? (1971) The Freeing of the Dust (1975)
Life in the Forest (1978)
A Door in the Hive (1989)
Evening Train (1992)
The Sands of the Well (1996)
This Great Unknowing: Last Poems (2000) CARAPACE: notice the shell-like shape
I am growing mine
though I have regretted yours.
She says, ‘Sure I saw him: he wanted
to run, the Guardia Civil
shot him before he reached the patio wall.
Do I understand “subversive”? Yes,
the word means
people who know their rights,
if they work but don’t get enough to eat
they protest. He was
a lay preacher, my father,
he preached the Gospel,
he was subversive.’
She is 12.
My shell is growing
nicely, not very hard, just
a thin protection but it’s
better than just skin. Have you
completed yours? It seems
there will be chinks in it though,
plates don’t quite meet, do yours?
A 9 year old boy whose father has ‘disappeared’ three weeks now,
asked how he feels, says
with the shrug of a man of sixty,
'sad.’ He nods. ‘Yes; sad . . . ’
That burning, blistering glare
off the world’s desert
still pushes in; oh, filter it, grow faster,
hide me in shadow,
my carapace! -Marriage -Involvement in World War II -Politics and Protest to Vietnam War Vietnam 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 lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after the children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
it is not remembered. Remember,
most were peasants; their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors
there was time only to scream.
There is an echo yet
of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now. "What Were They Like?" is a commentary on what Levertov perceived to be the American policy toward Vietnam, this poem vilifies the idea of the loss of an entire culture because of war. -Her father was friends with a lot of artists and eccentrics, so Denise quickly understood the importance of art in life -Mother: Beatrice Spooner-Jones
-Father: Paul Levertoff -never received a formal education
-home-schooled by mother with an emphasis on classic literature
-also studied ballet, French and piano Early Writing Career -took a short break from writing
-went into WWII as a nurse and continues to write there (this war experience influences her writing 5: decided to be a poet
12: wrote poems and sent them to T.S. Eliot who responded with a lot of advice
16: met Herbert Read who influenced her writing greatly
17: published first poem
19: work was published in journals
-Poetry Quarterly, Voices -underwent nurse's training for three years at St. Luke's Hospital
-During the Blitz (1940-1941), when Germany strategically bombed Britain, Denise Levertov served as a civilian nurse in London
-continued to write poetry, but these early works didn't reflect the political climate of the time, rather her personal life and childhood (The Double Image, 1946) -marries Mitchell Goodman, an American novelist and infantryman during the war
-lived in Southern France for 2 years
-moved to America in early 1950s
-have a son named Nikolai
-lived mainly in New York and summered in Maine
-eventually got divorced -Influences -Some of her Works -In America, she studies American modernist poets like Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams (influenced by his objectivist point of view)
-Befriended Robert Duncan (another poet) who was associated with Black Mountain School of Art which Levertov soon became associated with too
-Levertov became established as a contemporary poet The Double Image (1946) -her 1st poetry book
-near-romantic style of British poetry
-had a recurring sense of loss
-Romantic personification of death
-Many ideas came from her involvement in the 2nd World War as a civilian
nurse New British Poetry (1949) -appeared in Kenneth Rexroth's anthology
-her first American publication Here and Now (1957) -2nd book published
-had her famous poem, "The Jacob's Ladder" The Overland to the Islands (1958) -3rd book published
-similar to her 2nd book
-had rejected poems from earlier books
-firmness of imagery, clarity of language With Eyes at the Back of our Heads (1960) -major publication
-caught James Laughlin's attention
-deals with the idea of the mind's eye versus the physical eye
-"To the Snake" "Some Notes on Organic Form" (1965) -wrote an essay commenting on her artistic form
-published in Poetry Magazine The Sorrow Dance (1967) -Vietnam War influence
-a lot of political messages -helped found Writers and Artists Protest Against the War in Vietnam movement in the 1960s
-participated in many antiwar protests and marches and was jailed at least once
-A few examples of her works that reflected her views:
-Relearning the Alphabet (1970)
-To Stay Alive (1971)
-Freeing of the Dust (1975) -Held various teaching positions in several US colleges in 1960s and 1970s Black Mountain School:
-associated with Black Mountain College
-also included Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson
-Olson: "projective verse" and "composition by field"
-a.k.a: the shape of the poem should be determined by context and poet's intuition
-Levertov says her poetic form "is based on an intuition of an order, a form beyond forms" Religious Influences in Levertov's Works
-more pantheistic (idea that god is the universe, go created the universe, etc.) than conventional religion; more general beliefs, not specific
-had to do with her religious background
-father was an Anglican minister; former Jew
-mother was daughter of preacher
Classic Victorian influences
-her mother made her study classic writers like Tennyson while she was young Words are split to show the divided nature of the country during the War Capital letter shows and emphasizes that the loss of culture is final and is horrible. -In the first section, the questioner asks six questions about the culture, character and art of the Vietnamese people.
-The poem is based upon a dialogue between two persons: the questioner and the omniscient speaker.
-Clear-cut poem that shows the horrors of war, and the inevitable deadly outcome that war renders via two speakers: the questioner who asks six questions and the omniscient voice who replies. -The word ‘Sir’ suggests the possibility that the questioner is a military person which adds to the war theme. To answer the first question, Levertov plays on the words light and stone. She states that horrors made the Vietnamese people numb, unable to feel things. -In the second answer, Levertov states the killing of children destroyed the country’s delight in nature and ceremony. The children are compared to buds. -To answer the third question about laughter, the speaker pictures their suffering. The Americans were using napalm to burn the jungle. The mouths of innocent children were burned. How could they laugh then? -To answer the fourth question about ornaments, the speaker says they don’t need ornaments made from animal bone when human bones have been burned by bombs. -To answer the question about their epic poems [poems that celebrate the past] the speaker says the war has wiped out memory. She points out that the people of Vietnam lived peaceful rural lives, growing rice in a beautiful countryside. The water in the paddy fields mirrored the sky. She blames the American bombs for destroying their agricultural way of life and their family structure. -Levertov's political poems are overly preachy and not poetic
-she abandoned her poetic principles on organic form
-even her friends, like Duncan, questioned her political poetry -Levertov defended her political poetry and discussed the importance of "engaged poetry"
-Dorothy M. Nielson praised Levertov's Vietnam War poems
-use of appropriate form and language
-Hayden Corroth also praised her poems
-received many awards and recognition
-election to the American Academy of the Arts and Letters in 1980 “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 . . . elements in the reader that would otherwise be stagnant.”
-Denise Levertov poetrymonth2012.tumblr.com Literary Period -Post-modernism (1950-present)
-mixed fantasy with nonfiction to create magic realism
-deals with social issues
-uses present tense
-narrative style http://www.espacioluke.com/ Bibliography Dewey, Anne. "The Art Of The Octopus": The Maturation Of Denise Levertov's Political Vision." Renascence 50.1/2 (1997): 65-81. Literary Reference Center. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.
Deutsch, Abigail. "Denise Levertov : The Poetry Foundation." Poetry Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Doresky, William. “Denise Levertov.” American Writers: Supplement III Part 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991. Print.
Earnshaw, Doris, and Leslie Ellen Jones. "Denise Levertov." Critical Survey Of Poetry, Second Revised Edition (2002): 1-8. Literary Reference Center. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.
Gelpi, Albert. ""The Genealogy of Postmodernism: Contemporary American Poetry"" UPenn Writing. UPenn, Summer 1990. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.
"Levertov, Denise." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 975-978. Gale Power Search. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Levertov, Denise. "What Were They Like." PoemHunter. PoemHunter, 3 Jan. 2003. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
"On "What Were They Like?”.” Welcome to English « Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Stone, Louise M., and Joseph Michael Sommers. "Denise Levertov." Magill’S Survey Of American Literature, Revised Edition (2006): 1-8. Literary Reference Center. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
Stone, Louise M., and Joseph Michael Sommers. "What Were They Like?." Magill’S Survey Of American Literature, Revised Edition (2006): Literary Reference Center. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.
"What Were They Like-Denise Levertov." Skoool.ie Interactive Learning. Intel Corp., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.
< http://www.skoool.ie/examcentre_sc.asp?id=2581> -The sixth question is about their song-like everyday speech. The speaker answers that some say there is still a faint echo of song in the people’s speech. It is as faint as the beating of moth-wings. The speaker concludes by declaring that war has finally silenced their beautiful and gentle songs.