denise * levertov




In Poetry as Prayer: Denise Levertov, Murray Bodo describes six ways to “pray” poems:  “Prayer involves discipline, perseverance, and a humility that comes from knowing that you cannot control God… You learn to pray by praying, and you learn to appreciate poetry by reading it” (91).

1. Be Committed.

Denise Levertov’s commitment to her art was a true vocation.  She made hard decisions throughout her life in order to protect and nourish her writing.  (92)

2. Try to Write as a Way of Prayer.

What I learned from Denise was to trust my words to take me where I would not have gone without them; to trust the first word to lead to the first line, the second line, and then on to stanza after stanza.  Prayer-words will likewise lead to silences and pauses not unlike those blank spaces on the page, those pauses at the end of lines… (95)

Denise Levertov was one of the most intellectually honest people I have ever met.  She would not say what she did not believe, simply in order to please another.  She trusted the truth, and her poems shimmer with a truthful articulation that frees her work from faddish posturing. (98)

4. Plan Well.

Without a course of action to pursue in the face of injustice, Levertov said, people only become frustrated and angry – another kind of violence. (100)

5. Believe in Memory.

The injunction, “Remember,” is one of the most frequent exhortations in the Bible, for it is in remembering the works of God that we are able to define who we are and see the world around us with God’s eye.  (102)

6. Know that Faith is a Journey.

For faith is a gift given to those who are open to receiving it.


Prayer:  Lines from Levertov’s “Making Peace.”

“A line of peace might appear / if we restructured the sentences our lives are making…./peace, a presence, / … might pulse then, / stanza by stanza into the world, / each act of living/ one of its words….”

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