Denise Levertov: The Poetry of Engagement

Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1993 - 237 páginas
This study is concerned with both Denise Levertov's social consciousness as manifested in her earliest poetry and with her growth as a "poet in the world." Early in her career, Levertov was highly praised as a lyric poet of considerable sensitivity whose poems were succinct (at times mystical, at times sensuous) and whose technical gifts were impeccable. During the height of her emergence as a political dissident during the Vietnam War, the "Orphic" poet was seen as having traded aesthetics for polemics. Audrey T. Rodgers works to disprove the assumption that art and politics are mutually exclusive entities in Levertov's work. Through careful analysis of Levertov's social verse, she demonstrates that there is a consistency and pattern in what the artist herself has termed the "poems of engagement."
Denise Levertov began her career in England as a lyric poet in the Romantic mode, but even then was touched by the reductive nature of war, revealed in her first published poem, "Listening to Distant Guns." During the mid-1960s Levertov's social conscience, notably her strong antiwar sentiment, was reawakened by the Vietnam War. This reawakening resulted in several volumes of poetry that mirrored her concerns with the war (and political activism at home) and her perplexity at the nature of human beings - often great and compassionate, but at times cruel and insensitive.
There exists a common thread in Levertov's pilgrimage from her beginning as a lyric poet to her status as an artist definitively in the world: she has always responded to everything within the compass of her experience. From To Stay Alive to The Jacob's Ladder and The Sorrow Dance - from Relearning the Alphabet to O Taste and See, Footprints, and Life in the Forest - Levertov covers a wide range of emotion. Sorrow, joy and celebration, empathy, perplexity, rage, and despair are treated to be sure, but overriding is a hope and profound sensitivity to beauty amid chaos. This appreciation of beauty is central to her later volumes - Candles in Babylon, Oblique Prayers, Breathing the Water, and A Door in the Hive - as well. In these, Levertov does not ignore social injustice, yet manages to inspire through images of nature, a search for a transcendent faith, and an exploration of human potential, love, and friendship.

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Make truth real to us
what lies at hand
Westward through danger
la selva oscura
Echoes and Footprints
Lighting Candles in Babylon
Works by Denise Levertov
Poems by Denise Levertov
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Sobre o autor (1993)

Audrey T. Rogers has written extensively on modern poetry, including its use of dance imagery, in such journals as Criticism, Four Decades, Comparative Literature Studies, and Arizona Quarterly. She teaches 20th century American poetry at Penn State, where she took her PhD.

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