CANDLES IN BABYLON by Denise Levertov


Email this review


A substantial collection (71 poems)--and Levertov's most distinguished book in more than a decade. There is a new compass for some of the poems, one of possibility and openness: a focused kind of romanticism, at times Yeatsian (""The Passing Bell"") or out-of-time like Robert Duncan's (""The Chill"") but mostly very much a Levertovian blooming all its own. She writes here of age: ""these way stations/ where goodbyes/ are festive lanterns by the edge of a lake."" Of the seasonalness of despair (""Talking to Oneself""), of the landscape of perceptions (""An English Field in the Nuclear Age""), the acceptance of poet-as-pariah: ""But soon you love me less./ I brought with me/ too much. . ./ Silks and furs, my enormous wings,/ my crutches, and my spare crutches,/ my desire to please, and worse--/ my desire to judge what is right./ I take up/ so much space."" Levertov's more customary essentialist mode is here too--in poems like ""Old People Dozing"" (""Their thoughts are night gulls/ following the ferry. . .""). ""Pig Dreams""--a series about a pet pig named Sylvia--and a long animistic Mass are less successful projects. And Levertov's political poetry continues to be either too speechy or too damply moony. But there's real excitement in Levertov's new romanticism--and any serious student of poetry will learn much about the technique and adventure of art from the best work here.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0811208311
Publisher: New Directions