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This article is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

The Poet's Total Involvement: Denise Levertov Eavan Boland
This article is the introduction to The Collected Poems of Denise
Levertov, edited by Paul A. Lacey and Anne Dewey, published by New Directions in October 2013. The volume makes available six decades of Levertov's work and includes, for the first time, and in chronological order, every poem she ever published.


In 1960, when she was in her late thirties, Denise Levertov published a poem in Poetry magazine. In the free and bold tone which had become her signature, the first lines weighed origin and loss.

Something forgotten for twenty years: though my fathers
and mothers came from Cordova and Vitepsk and  Caernarvon,
and though I am a citizen of the United States and less a
stranger here than anywhere else, perhaps,
I am Essex-born:

The poem is brilliant and mysterious. In this it resembles its maker. When I met Denise Levertov, thirty years ago in Dublin, I found a smiling, debonair woman; a conversationalist of great charm, but with an elusive air. What was it? When I thought about it I was nearly certain I was looking at a drama of displacement. With her English birth, her American citizenship, her Russian inheritance, she seemed like one of those European exiles at a café table on a summer evening -  able to understand every place because she had long ago lost the ability to belong to only one.

I came to think I was wrong; or at least only partially right. Some of the reasons are made plain in this splendid and ...


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