Levertov became Catholic and, in her words, "more orthodox" as she got
older. Before seeing her as a mystic, I suggest you read my interview
with her in Jewel Brooker's collection of interviews, CONVERSATIONS WITH
DENISE LEVERTOV (Mississippi, 1998). //She is extremely insistent onthe thing in itself, physical. Not everything can be translated intothe abstract. If she was also interested in mysticism, as she saysin that interview (she wrote poems to Julian of Norwich in whichshe insisted on Julian's ordinary humanness), it is a kind ofimmanence nothing at all like Eliot's fascination with transcendence.//
The poems to Julian are in BREATHING THE WATER (New Directions, 1987).
In 1961 she had not become Catholic. She was focused on anti-war poems
for the next long period.
To be nourished by the mystic tradition, in her words, does not mean to
assume oneself within it.
>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>09/09/07 2:22 PM >>>
The river is within us, the sea is all around us.
~ T.S. Eliot, 'Four Quartets'
The road leads to the sea.
~ 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they are withdrawn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.
E. P. "It looks like dying"-Williams: "I can't
describe to you what has been
happening to me"-
H. D. "unable to speak."
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,
the language into our hands.
our footsteps each time a truck
has dazzled past us and gone
leaving us new silence.
One can't reach
the sea on this endless
road to the sea unless
one turns aside at the end, it seems,
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...
~ Denise Levertov
"Like many of the writers of the Beat generation, Levertov shared an
in Eastern Mysticism and translated Hindu work, In Praise of Krishna:
from the Bengali."