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Concelebration: The Poetic, Personal, and Political in "Human Being" by Denise Levertov

Tim Vivian

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Denise Levertov gathered the poems in The Stream and the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes from seven different volumes that, she says in the foreword, “trace my own slow movement from agnosticism to Christian faith, a movement incorporating much of doubt and questioning as well as of affirmation.” Religious themes recur throughout her poetry and in 1989 she became a Roman Catholic. The title of the first poem in The Stream and the Sapphire, “Human Being,” and the position Levertov has given this poem, tell us that for her, being religious is a process of discovery during the experiences of the day-to-day. Through her imagery Levertov grounds her poems in these experiences of the daily—a heightened perception of the quotidian, to be sure (one reason we need poetry), but a reality any reader can relate to and call his or her own. In this essay I will discuss “Human Being” as an introduction to and encouragement to read The Stream and the Sapphire. The poems are as new now as when they were published some thirty years ago.

 
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