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Denise LevertovA Poet's Life$
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Dana Greene

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037108

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037108.001.0001

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(p.113) 6 Endings
Denise Levertov

Dana Greene

University of Illinois Press

This chapter details the life and career of Denise Levertov from 1972 to 1975. This period was marked by critical endings for Levertov, an extraordinary time of emotional turmoil and confusion. Three centrifugal forces—the end of the Vietnam War, her break with mentor Robert Duncan, and her divorce from Mitch—could have overwhelmed her. In the end they did not. She survived, and haltingly searched for a new life. Two books of poetry appeared. Footprints (1972) and The Freeing of the Dust (1975) both attested to her longing for freedom and desire to leave the past behind, and a collection of essays, The Poet in the World (1973), established her preeminence in poetics. As she groped toward the future, Levertov carried a talisman with her, a new understanding of her name Denise. Previously she assumed Denise derived from the Greek “Dionysus.” Now to her delight she discovered that in Hebrew its origin was in “Daleth,” meaning “door,” “entrance, exit/way through of/giving and receiving.” Obliquely she began to live into this new self-understanding.

Keywords:   Denise Levertov, women poets, Vietnam War, Robert Duncan, Mitch Goodman, poetry, Footprints, The Freeing of the Dust, The Poet in the World

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