FOOTPRINTS by Denise Levertov


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It's no disparagement (though it's the reason she's disliked in some quarters) to say that Miss Levertov is foremost a moral poet who draws her force from experiences open to -- impinging upon -- all of us. Her anti-war activism, her political subject matter are clearest cases in point; but at the other end of the axis is her allegiance to small transient realities, the kind of truth that presents itself without comment. In the real she finds a sense of sanctity, and sanctity is her political motive, as her present range and her development both indicate. From her earlier work and her persistent love of ritual and conjured essences (as in a sequence of poems about her students) it also seems evident that her native impulse is toward a kind of lyrical intuition, perhaps a kind of mysticism, and that politics is for her a difficult but overriding necessity. The difficulties, understandably, find only provisional resolution in her poems: ""The Day the Audience Walked Out on Me, and Why"" has a deadpan irony that verges on sarcasm; and a poem like ""Scenario,"" which ends in an unforgettable paroxysm of horror, begins with a facile pun on ""theater"" of war. But it's her fidelity to the truth as she sees it, in a sliding scale from little things to great issues, which gives her work, and this collection, its special kind of authority.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1972
Publisher: New Directions