Friday, January 27, 2023

Reading Denise Levertov's "Settling" as "Seattling"

I bought Denise Levertov's "Evening Train" when it came out in 1992. I knew she had recently moved from Somerville, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, so I misread the title of the first poem as "Seattling" instead of "Settling". I didn't notice my mistake until I'd finished reading the poem, whose reference to an eagle, a mountain, and "the grey foretold by all and sundry" were all consistent with "Seattling" down in Denise's new city. When I saw her again in Palo Alto, California, in 1993 and shared my misreading with her, she blessed me with her beautiful laughter for what turned out be the last time before her death in 1997. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 January 2023)



Denise Levertov, "Evening Train", 1992

"Collected Poems", 853


I was welcomed here—clear gold

of late summer, of opening autumn,

the dawn eagle sunning himself on the highest tree,

the mountain revealing herself unclouded, her snow

tinted apricot as she looked west,

tolerant, in her steadfastness, of the restless sun

forever rising and setting.

.                                        Now I am given

a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,

a grey both heavy and chill. I've boasted I would not care,

I'm London-born. And I won't. I'll dig in,

into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.

Grey is the price

of neighboring with eagles, of knowing

a mountain's vast presence, seen or unseen.

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