Poet Denise Levertov: Master of the Mundane & the Magical

Denise Levertov (1923-1997) created poetry from her own experience and encouraged her readers to open themselves up fully to the world, to find answers to universal questions by looking inward. Here’s an excerpt from “Pleasures”:

I like to find
what’s not found
at once, but lies

within something of another nature
in repose, distinct.

What I love about her poems is how she fused the public and private realms so that they formed a single universe in which fairy tales and myths mingle with the objects and events of everyday life. Like this, from “Christmas 1944”:

Who can be happy while the wind recounts
its long sagas of sorrow? Though we are safe
in a flickering circle of winter festival
we dare not laugh.

It’s hard to know if we’re in a world of legend or feeling the effects of World War II. For Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to go back to Levertov and remember what I liked and, perhaps, find something new.

Her stamp will be released later this year as part of the Twentieth-Century Poets stamp pane.

“Denise Levertov”, 1953
Photograph by Rollie McKenna
@ Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation
Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Foundation