Monday, February 23, 2015

Denise Levertov*

Denise Levertov (1923—1997) was born in England. Her father was raised a Hasidic Jew, but had become a Christian and an Anglican parson. She, herself, became an agnostic. Her first book, The Double Image, appeared in 1946. She married an American and moved with him to New York City after WWII.

The process of Levertov coming to Christian faith was a long one, and so it should not be surprising to find glimpses of that process coming through in her earlier books. The following poem is from her 1964 collection, O Taste and See. This poem was selected by Mark Jarman, for his list of "Original and unorthodox poems about theology", for Poetry Magazine.

The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Denise Levertov: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.