THE SORROW DANCE by Denise Levertov


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Denise Levertov might be called the Emily Dickinson of Greenwich Village, or the heiress of William Carlos Williams. Or perhaps as an even better tag, the landlady of the Beats, since she's as frequently housed with them in the anthologies. But, to continue the simile, whereas her lodgers shout, Miss Levertov very nearly whispers; they survey an urban mess, she sees mystery, a lyric apprehension of the everyday event intimately, minutely annotated, reshaped, recomposed; the known, as Miss Levertov once put it, suddenly ""appearing fully itself, and/more itself than one knew."" In any case, these bursts Of sacramental metamorphoses, this ability to Concoct poetry out of ""Anything, the attention/never wavers. A woman, say,/who is sleeping or laughing or making/coffee. A marriage...,"" coupled with idiomatic rhythms and staged in the so-called open form, constitutes Missy, Levertov's celebrated stock in trade. Earthly woe and moments of transcendence, psalms and Vietnam peace marches, subways and willows, a son moving ""from room to room of our life/ in boots, in jeans..."" -- the familiar fragmentary subject matter adorns her latest collection, as does the equally obsessive pursuit of an ""inner harmony,"" the relatedness of contradictions, Zen-tinged Americana, and a gnomic aesthetic. All very seer-sweet, but one is growing weary of the same vine. Fortunately, a long elegy, both delicate and powerful, is impressive indeed, modestly rivaling Allen Ginsberg's anguished ""Kaddish.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1967
Publisher: New Directions