Denise Levertov was one of the most distinguished and engaging poets of the 20th century. Her work is characterized by moral courage, passionate imagination, exquisite craftsmanship, and unpretentious accessibility. Stanford was fortunate to have Levertov on the faculty for a number of years, and her influence on poets throughout the Bay Area has been indelible.
Early in her career, through her friendships with Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, she became associated with the so-called Black Mountain School, experimenting in what Levertov called “organic form.” Critics like to divide her poetry into three phases: the imagist poems, followed by political poems against the war in Vietnam and for social justice, and finally, explicitly religious and Christian poems. But hers was from the outset a visionary imagination; Levertov saw the development of her work as a deepening and integrative continuity and spoke of it as a pilgrimage exploring her sense of the mystery of life in all things, however ordinary, and in all dimensions of experience.
This program marks the 20th anniversary of Levertov’s death in December 1997 and will follow the luminous trajectory of her pilgrimage. It includes dramatic readings of many of her poems, and appreciative commentary from the distinguished literary historian, close friend, and editor of her work, Albert Gelpi; and celebrated poet, friend, and author of the introduction to Levertov’s Collected Poems, Eavan Boland.