Denise Levertov's poem to Robert Duncan

If I die and we're in a fight when I die and later you have a dream about it, please make an effort to write a better poem than the one posted below, which is so very crappy.

Flat flat flat. And just plain. Just boring. The thing about it is the back story behind it and that's not how a poem should be important, is it?

The following is Denise Levertov's poem to Robert Duncan, years after he died, and many years after their friendship ended.

I came across this poem after hearing about it in some of my Robert Duncan studying. My mentor for school (funny word in this case) said that reading the letters of Duncan and Levertov would be the equivalent of an MFA program. So, of course, I ordered the behemoth as part of my collection building. (PS My collection has been stimulated by the stimulation package. So thanks, Fed, for that.)

And now, the poem that I think is icky by Denise Levertov:
To R. D., MARCH 4th, 1988

You were my mentor. Without knowing it,
I outgrew the need for a mentor.
Without knowing it, you resented that,
and attacked me. I bitterly resented
the attack, and without knowing it
freed myself to move forward
without a mentor. Love and long friendship
corroded, shrank, and vanished from sight
into some underlayer of being.
The years rose and fell, rose and fell,
and the news of your death after years of illness
was a fact without resonance for me,
I had lost you long before, and mourned you,
and put you away like a folded cloth
put away in a drawer. But today I woke
while it was dark, from a dream
that brought you live into my life:
I was in a church, near the Lady Chapel
at the head of the west aisle. Hearing a step
I turned: you were about to enter
the row behind me, but our eyes met
and you smiled at me, your unfocussed eyes
focussing in that smile to renew
all the reality our foolish pride extinguished.
You moved past me then, and as you sat down
beside me, I put a welcoming hand
over yours, and your hand was warm.
I had no need
for a mentor, nor you to be one;
but I was once more
your chosen sister, and you
my chosen brother
We heard strong harmonies rise and begin to fi ll
the arching stone,
sounds that had risen here through centuries.

welcoming hand, our eyes met, that whole talky beginning...you should see the grimace on my face right now. The middle, though. That line "that brought you live into my life" and places around that section, that's not so bad.

This might be evil, but the first thing I thought upon reading the poem (in the stacks at the West Rox PL back in May, actually) was, "Uh, I think you coulda used some Dunkage here, missy."

Yikes. I'm mean.

Anyway, back to my reading...

Popular Posts