Denise Levertov: Poems

Later life and work

During the 1960s and 70s, Levertov became much more politically active in her life and work. As poetry editor for The Nation, she was able to support and publish the work of feminist and other leftist activist poets. The Vietnam War was an especially important focus of her poetry, which often tried to weave together the personal and political, as in her poem "The Sorrow Dance," which speaks of her sister's death. Also in response to the Vietnam War, Levertov joined the War Resisters League, and in 1968 signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the war.[7] Levertov was a founding member of the anti-war collective RESIST along with Noam Chomsky, Mitchell Goodman, William Sloane Coffin, and Dwight Macdonald.[8]

Much of the latter part of Levertov’s life was spent in education. After moving to Massachusetts, Levertov taught at Brandeis University, MIT and Tufts University. She also lived part-time in Palo Alto and taught at Stanford University, as professor of English (professor emeritus). There she befriended Robert McAfee Brown, a professor of religion at Stanford and pastor. Franciscan Murray Bodo also became a spiritual advisor to her. In 1984 she uncovered notebooks of her mother and father, resolving some personal and religious conflict. In 1989 she moved from Somerville, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington, and lived near Seward Park, Lake Washington and her beloved Mountain Rainier. On the West Coast, she had a part-time teaching stint at the University of Washington and for 11 years (1982–1993) held a full professorship at Stanford University, where she taught in the Stegner Fellowship program. In 1984 she received a Litt. D. from Bates College. After retiring from teaching, she travelled for a year doing poetry readings in the US and Britain. In 1990 she joined the Catholic Church at St. Edwards, Seattle; she became involved in protests of the US attack on Iraq. She retired from teaching at Stanford.[9]

Then in 1994 she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and also suffered pneumonia and acute laryngitis. Despite this she continued to lecture and participate at national conferences, many on spirituality and poetry. In February 1997 she experienced the death of Mitch Goodman.[9] In December 1997, Denise Levertov died at the age of 74 from complications due to lymphoma. She was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington. Her papers are held at Stanford University. The first full biography appeared in October 2012 by Dana Greene Denise Levertov: A Poet's Life (Chicago: University of Illinois, 2012). Donna Krolik Hollenberg's more substantial biography, A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov, was published by the University of California Press in April 2013.

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