Denise Levertov – poet

My blogging pal, Lynn, from Sprigs, and Liz Elayne, of be present, be here,  have started something called Poetry Thursday.   Poetry Thursday “is an online project that encourages bloggers to read and enjoy poetry, as well as sharing it with others.”

I’ve never been a big fan of poetry.  It’s embarrassing to say, considering I was an English major in college and I like to read.  I think one of the reasons is that I feel most comfortable with traditional A-B-C storytelling.   Poetry is often about mood or language itself and it doesn’t always have the forward thrust of a narrative.  When Lynn asked if I was interested in getting involved, I sent her this email:

I’ll think about it.  To be quite honest, I do have an interest in poetry.   Maybe you can help me understand why this is, but I avoid poetry, because reading poetry frequently makes me feel nervous — almost anxious.  Is that weird to admit?  Maybe because I’m so used to words and sentences having a structure and making a concrete point – providing information in a story that I can focus on –  I’m not really sure what to do with just words and emotion?  Maybe it’s a male thing, like not asking for directions.  I mean, does poetry have tits I can play with?

Her response:

It depends on the poems. Some have tits and ass that don’t mind being played with, but others are terribly prude.

I don’t know how fully I’m going to participate, but I thought I’d take a cue from Sophia, and be brave.  Look fear in the eye.  And actually read some poetry.

I went to the Index of Modern American Poets and spent the next couple of hours just reading different poems. 

I wish I had the literary skills of an arts critic.  I’m terrible in explaining why I like one piece of art better than another.  Why do I love watching “24,” but fall asleep watching “CSI?”  Is there a specific reason I like one book over another?  Why do I relate to one blogger’s writing more than another, especially when I don’t know really know any of you.

Maybe if I keep on reading poetry for a while, I’ll be better prepared to explain why I liked this following poem the best out of the dozens I read.  It’s not particularly a “big” poem, or about anything dramatic.  It’s written by Denise Levertov, who died in 1997.  This is supposedly the last poem she ever wrote.


When I found the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I’ll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop

(Denise Levertov. “The Great Unknowing: Last Poems.”

Copyright 1999 by the Denise Levertov Property Trust. 
Publisher:  New Directions.)