Thought for the Day: Denise Levertov, Redux
I am saying that for the poet, for the man who makes literature, there is no such thing as the isolated study of literature. And for those who desire to know what the poet has made, there is therefore no purely literary study, either. Why "therefore"? Because the understanding of a result is incomplete if there is ignorance of its process. The literary critic or the teacher of literature is merely scratching a section of surface if he does not live out in his own life some experience of the multitudinous interactions in time, space, memory, dream, and instinct that at every word tremble into synthesis in the work of a poet, or if he keeps his reading separate from his actions in a box labeled "aesthetic experiences." The interaction of life on art and of art on life is continuous. Poetry is necessary to a whole man, and that poetry be not divided from the rest of life is necessary to it. Both life and poetry fade, wilt, shrink, when they are divorced.
Literature––the writing of it, the study of it, the teaching of it––is a part of your lives. It sustains you, in one way or another. Do not allow that fatal divorce to take place between it and your actions.
-Denise Levertov, "The Poet in the World," from New & Selected Essays (New Directions, 1992) p. 134.
I am rereading Levertov's essays. I think she is quite brilliant, and her work (like Rilke's, whom she quotes liberally in this particular essay) seems to me a better way to think about poetry than the work of say, the deconstructionists, whose writing is so often deadly as literature, and spiritually debilitating as well.