Saturday, April 08, 2023

The dates (January-March 1991) on Denise Levertov’s poem "Witnessing from Afar the New Escalation of Savage Power”

Unlike Adrienne Rich, who began dating her poems in the 1960s, Denise Levertov rarely dated her poems, so the dates for "Witnessing from Afar the New Escalation of Savage Power" in "Evening Train" (1992) stand out: "January-March 1991." This "escalation of savage power" is thus the Gulf War of 1991: "Operation Desert Storm" to expel Iraq from Kuwait ran from 17 January to 28 February. Levertov's distant "witnessing" reminds me of my own moment of "shock" and "shame": I was studying at the University of Pennsylvania library on a Wednesday evening when the news came that the aerial bombardment of Iraqi forces, radar sites, and airfields, as well as Baghdad itself. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 April 2023)

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