Monday, November 23, 2009

Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was a very fine poet who had, among other thing, superlative taste in glasses. She’s not one of my special favorites; I haven’t exhaustively studied her work or committed anything she wrote to memory. I just had this poem floating around in my head and thought I’d post it.

I first discovered this poem in A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry,which was edited by Czeslaw Milosz. It’s a very fine anthology and recommended if you’re more of a casual poetry reader and not the sort to hunker down with anyone’s complete works.

Because let’s be honest: most authors’ complete works are a bit of a slog. I recall having a chat with another English major girlfriend (Hi Lynelle!) who had the pluck to tackle Shakespeare's Complete Sonnets. There’s lots of good stuff in there. We’re talking about poetry that is among the finest ever penned in the English language. The sonnets are a pretty high bar for any poet to match.

And yet … there are duds. And the duds are not altogether infrequent.

It’s quite comforting that even great writers have off days.

This poem is not a dud.

A Woman Meets An Old Lover

He with whom I ran hand in hand
kicking the leathery leaves down Oak Hill Path
thirty years ago

appeared before me with anxious face, pale,
almost unrecognized, hesitant,

He whom I cannot remember hearing laugh out loud
but see in mind’s eye smiling, self-approving,
wept on my shoulder.

He who seemed always
to take and not give, who took me
so long to forget,

remembered everything I had so long forgotten.

Denise Levertov on Wikipedia

Denise Levertov on

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