I assumed my local library would be scant on contemporary poetry; a catacomb of the canon. Shame on me! In addition to stocking some great contemporary poets, my quaint local library had an amazing video series produced by the Lannan Foundation featuring dozens of great contemporary poets reading thier work at length. I checked out the Denise Levertov video and am making my way through it now. So far it is excellent: cuts straight to a quality recording of the poet reading before a live audience.
I find there’s nothing so effective for learning to read well than watching an accomplished poet read their own work. Levertov, for example, is composed, confident. She takes her time with her work, treats it with the dignity it deserves. Why shouldn’t she? She is at the end of an admirable and prolific career. Yet why shouldn’t we all read our work with the same conviction and delight? Watching this video has been great. I look forward to others in the series.
The very existence of a new sincerity movement has sparked some interesting reflection in my mind. First, I think of poets whose sincerity and focus on beauty predate this moniker: Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov, B.H. Fairchild. Clearly, there has been no lack of sincerity in poetry even during the darkest hours of the postmodern period. Yet the idea of a movement, a rallying point for change, is perhaps the most “new” component of this approach.
Read The Poem (scroll down to the one entitled “Poem”)
What is so great about this poem is its excellent rhythm. Some of this is created through alliteration, as in the lines:
They drift about the darkening city squares
fingers feeling / familiar holes
a half-contented ghost among my guest
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
Just spent some much needed time away in a truly stunningly beautiful place only six hours drive from home and to which I had actually never been to before: Yosemite. It was magnificent, and perfectly timed: we were “off-season”, away from the crowds, surrounded by incredible views of waterfalls formed by snow melting in crevasses thousands of feet above us. The only hard part was being surrounded by so many happy families, and thinking how much I would have liked James to see it all one day. I picked up a copy of Denise Levertov’s Selected Poems since discovering Talking To Grief was in it, and she is fast becoming one of my favorite poets. We didn’t actually get a chance to sit around and read in Yosemite, though we happened on plenty of people doing it at the beautiful historic Ahwanee hotel in their great lounge beside a roaring fire one rainy afternoon. Well, maybe next time.