Monday, January 18, 2010

Denise Levertov

January 18, 2010

Today's O Pen included two poems by Denise Levertov:
Come into Animal Presence

Jim mentioned a book he's just finished: "The Beak of the Finch" which explains evolution and how homo sapiens took "the thinking nitch"...

In this two stanza poem, we humans are invited to come into animal presence: to reconsider the serpent, observe the white rabbit-star-silence; the dignified llama, the insouciant armadillo. The word "joy" comes up three times -- After the 3rd sentence, line 10 of the first stanza, as a question, "What is this joy" to start the second stanza and "an old joy" in the final line.

The serpent is guileless, has no blemish. Who made up that story in the Garden of Eden? How do we judge animals, determine that a llama disdains or that an armadillo would roll into a prickly ball at the sight of us? Levertov assures us, that a llama mildly disregards human approval, the armadillo doesn't quicken his trotting, but rather has his own intention to pursue in the palm forest. The rabbit is enigmatic whether a star twitching its ears at the rain, inspecting his surroundings.
Each animal is replete doing what it knows it must do. And this is joy. This is holiness and our reminder of holiness, and this presence is perhaps captured in a bronze statue or like bronzed baby shoes, etched into our memory. It isn't that anything changes, only that our vision and perception might falter. And would you not want to be in this archaic animal presence, this whole and connected holiness?

Matins is a poem filled with "Aha" moments! Kathy mentioned "moment of grace that we cannot summon" --
and we thought of Ellen Bass' poem "Pray for Peace" in part V.
7 sections, the words, " The Authentic!" starting out sections i. ii, vi, with a doubling of it in section 2. Shadows, dreams, Plato's cave, a sense of Gide's "authentique" and the early pre-dawn meditation of matins in a rhythmic, incantatory style.
Where is truth -- verisimilitude and we follow through, follow through, follow/transformations of day/in its turning, in its becoming. (part iv) part v and the child and rushing to save his clear sight by following him to give him his glasses...
and how the Authentic rolls just out of reach. Myth enters, perhaps a Greek layer of Poseidon and sea/horse/sacrifice.
An incantation to "Marvelous Truth!" a plea to know all sides of joy.

Discussion of Life at War :
I was given the chance to read this outloud with one of my poet colleagues, George Wallace, I believe just a year ago, or was it two...
and I remember the feeling resembling "lumps of raw dough" as if I had been the child helping on baking day... and wondering how contents of a heart can feel like a formless lump -- and the cringe of feeling grits of war pocking my lungs -- and it's not just war, it's all we do (myself and by extension, others do) as humans, that sits heavy in the gut, numbs feelings into doughy lumps, our actions that spit like shards of ice cutting our breath. But that's only to repeat Levertov's images. And then again, see how her spirit and love "jostle for space" and that word joy is mentioned again, and we have the knowledge that "our language imagines MERCY, LOVINGKINDNESS, and belief one another mirrored forms of a God we felt as good --", and that gives me such conviction to say the last three lines, to repeat that "nothing" until it feels possible, to strive for that deep intelligence, to work to turn words and actions into living peace.

Levertov Poems discussed in 2009 :
Dog of Art
A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England

Poems from "This Great Unknowing" (discussed for Jan. 26, 2009)
From Below
For the Asking
Ancient Stairway
First Love
Beyond the Field
The Metier of Blossoming
A Hundred a Day
That Day
Elephant Ears

Poems discussed 2/9/2009
O Taste and See
To The Snake
The Great Black Heron
The Ache of Marriage
Talking to Grief
September 1961
In Mind
Once Only
The Jacobs Ladder
Variation on a Theme by Rilke

No comments: