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Denise Levertov

By farah786 Aug 01, 2006 1275 Words
Denise Levertov was an anti-war supporter and one of the famous poets in the 20th century. She was born in 1923 and started publishing her works after the Second World War. Levertov wrote a variety of poems during the Vietnam War including interesting aspects of political development. By the means of poetry Levertov was trying to touch the ethics of Americans.

She starts to write about war poems for the first time around 1966 and this is clearly indicated by her poem "Life At War". Levertov begins by her own inability to respond: "The disasters numb within us" (1st line). Because the war is far and we only familiar of it by the way of pictures and news, this makes it difficult to bring it in one's own current imagination.

"The same war continues…with the gray filth of it." (lines 12 to 18), Levertov relates "war" largely in the air we breathe in. It is the reflection that we have breathed the polluted war air daily and we are not able to take any action.

Levertov considers universal human race by bearing in mind that men and women the same by using "we" – "Yes, this is…peace would have." (lines 40 to 47).

"Life At War" ends by saying "nothing we can say…peace would have". (lines 45 to 47) Levertov ends with these lines because she draws our attention on how war is bad for us and the way war spoils our relaxed life.

The poem "Life At War" values the understanding of how Americans overlooked the war. The poem looks at the cost of war and Levertov's message against war. "Life At War" succeeds by presenting the impressive sarcastic difference between disorder, damage, death and the "potential" which are the contributions of harmony.

"Life At War" includes different viewpoints on the Vietnam war, but it also imitates Levetov's internal responses to the events taking place externally. Levertov uses influential language and wants the audience to have their own feelings and reactions. She wants to motivate and inspirit an individual's personal will.

Denise Levertov's poem ‘Tenebrae' was written in 1967 autumn. ‘Tenebrae' conveys Levertov's wisdom that America is extremely shadowed by participating in the war and by refusing to recognize the horror of the cost and involvement.

"Heavy, heavy, heavy, hand and heart. We are at war bitterly, bitterly at war". (lines 1 to 3) The three repetitions equal the bell sound to announce a death or funeral. Levertov combines the idea of heaviness with the notion of ‘Tenebrae' which mean the shadow and is the ritual at Easter when the candles are put out for Good Friday. Darkness falls as the light is vanished and Levertov connects this moment with American's circumstances in the "Fall of 1967".

The darkness Levertov experiences spreading across America is recognized with the darkness of the Easter ceremony and the sorrow at Christ's death. Political and physical senses malfunction are caused due to the spiritual darkness. Levertov ends the poem by saying "And at their ears… not listening." (lines 31 to 33) Levertov is trying to say that people are not seeing their ethical problems and are deaf by not hearing to what is going on.

The poem makes several references to Levertov criticism of America. First, because of the culture in excessive interest and desire for money or possessions second, the belief that only the material world exist has blunted the mind and the vital sense which blinds American principles.

‘Tenebrae' criticizes focus on America for their uncaring attitude: "children promised a…are not listening (line 17 to 21). American way of life follows a culture without seeing the person, action or thing that serves to reveal the truth. "Neon signs" place out the hope of America's regulars: "They buy they…the years ahead." (line 27 to 30)

Levertov in the poem makes descriptions which are twisted together. For example silver moire summons shrapnel splinters (line 9 to 10). America is unable to hear to the war, it is infected by its own failure to hear, see and recognize. Their greatest mistake is their rejection to connect.

Levertov in her poems such as "Modes of Being" uses font changing as a tool to distinguish joy (America) with pain (Vietnam). Plain font is applied to the experiences between men and women. The poem's outline supports the division between America and Vietnam. The stanza referring to Vietnam is indented and set apart.

The American woman is learning about Vietnam through the books she and the man are reading and also the conversations they are having: "a new landscape…haymakers dressed differently" (line 17 to 22).

The poem moves back and forth between joy of a Vietnamese man and an American woman in love. They both are learning about each other, as well as the suffering of prisoners, "near Saigon" (line 11) and about a man and a woman in cages "made in America". (line 47)

Levertov emphasizes the difference between her own perception and the history occurring in Vietnam. There are four parts dealing with Levertov responses and are separated but combined with three italics paragraphs about South Vietnam prison: "Near Saigon, in…spine and cannot" (lines 25 to 29).

"Joy is real…all but fail (lines 40 to 45) refers to the level of narration which creates respect for Levertov's suffering but finally that is not her own. Without charge to take happiness in life, she neither overlooks nor completely continues the association with the horrifying tiger cages.

The poem is left unsolved by leaving an open-ended and leaving the reader with questions. Image of the vast wings is left behind: "What wings, what…that which

is…" (lines 55 to 65). Levertov uses this image to stretch and encompass the difficulty of life.

Levertov's poem "What Were They Like" is based upon conversation between a blameless person (the questioner) and the narrator (a person who knows everything): Did the people…speech and singing? (lines 1 to 9).

The first part of the poem has a few symbolic implications which Levertov deals with the reality of Vietnamese life. The rest of the poem includes the responses. Ironically the responses raise the questions language and the perversions of wartime and are exposed in the deformation of one time sacred lifestyle.

The answers bring out summary of war's predictable conclusion and are spoken as images: "…hearts turned to…only to scream" (lines 10 to 27). Levertov describes the horrors by dramatic collection of images, careful consideration of pace and recurrence. The terror and the terrible misuse of evolution are there in this poem. This poem is about anguish.

"What We They Like" exposes the nature of human violence passed in support of the political situation, visualizing the belief and existence of sufferers and discriminators similarly.

The last stanza strikes a touching message that an echo of the history troubles the present: "There is an echo…silent now" (lines 28 to 32). This stanza also offers an additional element of recalled magnificence in the figure of the journey of moths.

Levertov's writing increasingly used personal voice in poetry by basing her poetry around voice of an individual, the "I". Levertov wrote a large number of political poems, as she felt that, personal voice in poetry and the position of an individual in his or her society was always political. Levertov liked to leave things open-ended to allow the audience

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