By Denise Levertov
I like to find
what’s not found
at once, but lies
within something of another nature,
in repose, distinct.
Gull feathers of glass, hidden
in white pulp: the bones of squid
which I pull out and lay
blade by blade on the draining board—
tapered as if for swiftness, to pierce
the heart, but fragile, substance
belying design. Or a fruit, mamey,
cased in rough brown peel, the flesh
rose-amber, and the seed:
the seed a stone of wood, carved and
polished, walnut-colored, formed
like a brazilnut, but large,
large enough to fill
the hungry palm of a hand.
I like the juicy stem of grass that grows
within the coarser leaf folded round,
and the butteryellow glow
in the narrow flute from which the morning-glory
opens blue and cool on a hot morning.
Denise Levertov, “Pleasures” from Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960. Copyright © 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1979 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.
Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)
Although born in England, Denise Levertov’s long residence in the United States and her allegiance to the nativist vision and organic, open-form procedures of William Carlos Williams make her a distinctly American writer. Levertov came here in 1948, and was soon associating with the Black Mountain poets Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley. Her quietly passionate poems, attuned to mystic insights and mapping quests for harmony, became darker and more political in the 1960s as a result of personal loss and her outrage at the Vietnam War.
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