Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Denise Levertov poem

FIELD is a biannual publication from Oberlin College. That's a Durer owl on the cover. The issue begins with a symposium about Denise Levertov who died in 1997. Several poems of hers are printed and discussed. The last one discussed was written in the last months of her life, during the Gulf War. She always had a strong political consciousness but in this case she had a political farsightedness that is almost eerie today. "In California During the Gulf War" begins with descriptions of the long drought in California and that the spring flowers, nevertheless bloom. It goes on

...Yet the blossoms, clinging to the branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

-- again, again -- in our name; and yes, they return,
year after year, and, yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable -- and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be, that quiet, that huge cacophony

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossomsjavascript:void(0)
were not doves. There was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended.

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