Invocations of Humanity: Denise Levertov's Poetry of Emotion and Belief | Sojourners

Invocations of Humanity: Denise Levertov's Poetry of Emotion and Belief

Considered to be one of the greatest living American poets, Denise Levertov is also a long-time activist for peace and justice. Indeed, she sees the often conflicting spheres of poetry and politics as organically and necessarily connected.

It is a central grace in both her poetry and her politics that Denise Levertov maintains a passionate, delicately nuanced love for the daily details of human life alongside an active and uncompromising battle against the forces that seek to limit or destroy life. She has not given in either to the poet's temptation to leave out the horrible when describing the beautiful or the activist's temptation to omit the beautiful when describing the horrible. Because of this she is a voice that can be deeply trusteda rare and precious thing.

Author of more than 19 volumes of poetry and two books of literary criticism, Levertov travels extensively to give readings and lectures and to teach poetry writing. Retired from a full professorship at Tufts University, she has also taught at Vassar College, Stanford University, Drew University, and several other academic institutions.

Much of Levertov's poetry is influenced by her travels to Mexico and postwar Vietnam and by her birthplace and childhood home, England. She currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

It was while Levertov was poet-in-residence at Tufts that she and Joan Hallisey first met in 1976. Hallisey was working on her doctoral dissertation, which focused in part on Levertov's war poetry. When Hallisey and her professor disagreed about her interpretation of Levertov's work, Hallisey decided to ask for an interview with the poet herself. Her interpretation met with Levertov's approval. They have been in touch ever since, and Hallisey has published several articles on Levertov's poetry since 1976.

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