Sunday, February 05, 2023

Images and abstractions in Denise Levertov's poems

In my daily reading of poems by Denise Levertov (which has been occasionally interrupted lately), I find myself quoting lines that seem most like what Levertov taught in her creative-writing classes: "No ideas / but in things", as William Carlos Williams put it. But Levertov was clear about how she understood Williams's point: not "no ideas at all", but only "ideas through things". Indeed, while her poems are full of vividly described images, they often build on that imagery to arrive at more abstract passages. When I quote the imagery, I leave out her ideas, but if I quoted her ideas, they would seem flat without the images that ground them. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 February 2023)

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