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Best Famous Denise Levertov Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Denise Levertov poems. This is a select list of the best famous Denise Levertov poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Denise Levertov poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Denise Levertov poems.

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Written by Denise Levertov |


 My wedding-ring lies in a basket 
as if at the bottom of a well.
Nothing will come to fish it back up and onto my finger again.
It lies among keys to abandoned houses, nails waiting to be needed and hammered into some wall, telephone numbers with no names attached, idle paperclips.
It can't be given away for fear of bringing ill-luck.
It can't be sold for the marriage was good in its own time, though that time is gone.
Could some artificer beat into it bright stones, transform it into a dazzling circlet no one could take for solemn betrothal or to make promises living will not let them keep? Change it into a simple gift I could give in friendship?

Written by Denise Levertov |

In California During the Gulf War

 Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink--
a delicate abundance.
They seemed like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving the sackcloth others were wearing.
To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well with our shame and bitterness.
Skies ever-blue, daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.
Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches more lightly than birds alert for flight, lifted the sunken heart even against its will.
But not as symbols of hope: they were flimsy as our resistance to the crimes committed --again, again--in our name; and yes, they return, year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy over against the dark glare of evil days.
They are, and their presence is quietness ineffable--and the bombings are, were, no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany simultaneous.
No promise was being accorded, the blossoms were not doves, there was no rainbow.
And when it was claimed the war had ended, it had not ended.

Written by Denise Levertov |

What Were They Like?

 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 gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom, but after their 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.

More great poems below...

Written by Denise Levertov |


 Brilliant, this day – a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors, deft hands.
And every prodigy of green – whether it's ferns or lichens or needles or impatient points of buds on spindly bushes – greener than ever before.
And the way the conifers hold new cones to the light for the blessing, a festive right, and sing the oceanic chant the wind transcribes for them! A day that shines in the cold like a first-prize brass band swinging along the street of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds with the claims of reasonable gloom.

Written by Denise Levertov |

Talking to Grief

 Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you into the house and give you your own corner, a worn mat to lie on, your own water dish.
You think I don't know you've been living under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied before winter comes.
You need your name, your collar and tag.
You need the right to warn off intruders, to consider my house your own and me your person and yourself my own dog.

Written by Denise Levertov |

In Mind

 There's in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured and smelling of
apples or grass.
She wears a utopian smock or shift, her hair is light brown and smooth, and she is kind and very clean without ostentation- but she has no imagination And there's a turbulent moon-ridden girl or old woman, or both, dressed in opals and rags, feathers and torn taffeta, who knows strange songs but she is not kind.

Written by Denise Levertov |

September 1961

 This is the year the old ones,
the old great ones
leave us alone on the road.
The road leads to the sea.
We have the words in our pockets, obscure directions.
The old ones have taken away the light of their presence, we see it moving away over a hill off to one side.
They are not dying, they are withdrawn into a painful privacy learning to live without words.
"It looks like dying"-Williams: "I can't describe to you what has been happening to me"- H.
"unable to speak.
" The darkness twists itself in the wind, the stars are small, the horizon ringed with confused urban light-haze.
They have told us the road leads to the sea, and given the language into our hands.
We hear our footsteps each time a truck has dazzled past us and gone leaving us new silence.
Ine can't reach the sea on this endless road to the sea unless one turns aside at the end, it seems, follows the owl that silently glides above it aslant, back and forth, and away into deep woods.
But for usthe road unfurls itself, we count the words in our pockets, we wonder how it will be without them, we don't stop walking, we know there is far to go, sometimes we think the night wind carries a smell of the sea.

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Great Black Heron

 Since I stroll in the woods more often
than on this frequented path, it's usually
trees I observe; but among fellow humans
what I like best is to see an old woman
fishing alone at the end of a jetty,
hours on end, plainly content.
The Russians mushroom-hunting after a rain trail after themselves a world of red sarafans, nightingales, samovars, stoves to sleep on (though without doubt those are not what they can remember).
Vietnamese families fishing or simply sitting as close as they can to the water, make me recall that lake in Hanoi in the amber light, our first, jet-lagged evening, peace in the war we had come to witness.
This woman engaged in her pleasure evokes an entire culture, tenacious field-flower growing itself among the rows of cotton in red-earth country, under the feet of mules and masters.
I see her a barefoot child by a muddy river learning her skill with the pole.
What battles has she survived, what labors? She's gathered up all the time in the world --nothing else--and waits for scanty trophies, complete in herself as a heron.

Written by Denise Levertov |

Everything That Acts Is Actual

 From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,
can you pull me

into December? a lowland
of space, perception of space
towering of shadows of clouds blown upon
clouds over new ground, new made
under heavy December footsteps? the only
way to live?

The flawed moon acts on the truth, and makes
an autumn of tentative silences.
You lived, but somewhere else, your presence touched others, ring upon ring, and changed.
Did you think I would not change? The black moon turns away, its work done.
A tenderness, unspoken autumn.
We are faithful only to the imagination.
What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.
What holds you to what you see of me is that grasp alone.

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Avowal

 As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Written by Denise Levertov |

To the Snake

 Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck
and stroked your cold, pulsing throat
as you hissed to me, glinting
arrowy gold scales, and I felt
the weight of you on my shoulders,
and the whispering silver of your dryness
sounded close at my ears --

Green Snake--I swore to my companions that certainly
you were harmless! But truly
I had no certainty, and no hope, only desiring
to hold you, for that joy, 
which left
a long wake of pleasure, as the leaves moved
and you faded into the pattern
of grass and shadows, and I returned
smiling and haunted, to a dark morning.

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Garden Wall

 Bricks of the wall, 
so much older than the house - 
taken I think from a farm pulled down 
when the street was built - 
narrow bricks of another century.
Modestly, though laid with panels and parapets, a wall behind the flowers - roses and hollyhocks, the silver pods of lupine, sweet-tasting phlox, gray lavender - unnoticed - but I discovered the colors in the wall that woke when spray from the hose played on its pocks and warts - a hazy red, a grain gold, a mauve of small shadows, sprung from the quiet dry brown - archetype of the world always a step beyond the world, that can't be looked for, only as the eye wanders, found.

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Mutes

 Those groans men use
passing a woman on the street
or on the steps of the subway

to tell her she is a female
and their flesh knows it,

are they a sort of tune,
an ugly enough song, sung
by a bird with a slit tongue

but meant for music?

Or are they the muffled roaring
of deafmutes trapped in a building that is
slowly filling with smoke?

Perhaps both.
Such men most often look as if groan were all they could do, yet a woman, in spite of herself, knows it's a tribute: if she were lacking all grace they'd pass her in silence: so it's not only to say she's a warm hole.
It's a word in grief-language, nothing to do with primitive, not an ur-language; language stricken, sickened, cast down in decrepitude.
She wants to throw the tribute away, dis- gusted, and can't, it goes on buzzing in her ear, it changes the pace of her walk, the torn posters in echoing corridors spell it out, it quakes and gnashes as the train comes in.
Her pulse sullenly had picked up speed, but the cars slow down and jar to a stop while her understanding keeps on translating: 'Life after life after life goes by without poetry, without seemliness, without love.

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Métier of Blossoming

 Fully occupied with growing--that's
the amaryllis.
Growing especially at night: it would take only a bit more patience than I've got to sit keeping watch with it till daylight; the naked eye could register every hour's increase in height.
Like a child against a barn door, proudly topping each year's achievement, steadily up goes each green stem, smooth, matte, traces of reddish purple at the base, and almost imperceptible vertical ridges running the length of them: Two robust stems from each bulb, sometimes with sturdy leaves for company, elegant sweeps of blade with rounded points.
Aloft, the gravid buds, shiny with fullness.
One morning--and so soon!--the first flower has opened when you wake.
Or you catch it poised in a single, brief moment of hesitation.
Next day, another, shy at first like a foal, even a third, a fourth, carried triumphantly at the summit of those strong columns, and each a Juno, calm in brilliance, a maiden giantess in modest splendor.
If humans could be that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried, swift from sheer unswerving impetus! If we could blossom out of ourselves, giving nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!

Written by Denise Levertov |

The Well

 At sixteen I believed the moonlight 
could change me if it would.
I moved my head on the pillow, even moved my bed as the moon slowly crossed the open lattice.
I wanted beauty, a dangerous gleam of steel, my body thinner, my pale face paler.
I moonbathed diligently, as others sunbathe.
But the moon's unsmiling stare kept me awake.
Mornings, I was flushed and cross.
It was on dark nights of deep sleep that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well, and woke rested, and if not beautiful, filled with some other power.