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A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov [Kindle Edition]

Donna Hollenberg
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This first full-length biography of Anglo- American poet and activist Denise Levertov (1923-1997) brings to life one of the major voices of the second half of the twentieth century, when American poetry was a powerful influence worldwide. Drawing on exhaustive archival research and interviews with 75 friends of Levertov, as well as on Levertov’s entire opus, Donna Krolik Hollenberg’s authoritative biography captures the full complexity of Levertov as both woman and artist, and the dynamic world she inhabited. She charts Levertov’s early life in England as the daughter of a Russian Hasidic father and a Welsh mother, her experience as a nurse in London during WWII, her marriage to an American after the war, and her move to New York City where she became a major figure in the American poetry scene. The author chronicles Levertov’s role as a passionate social activist in volatile times and her importance as a teacher of writing. Finally, Hollenberg shows how the spiritual dimension of Levertov’s poetry deepened toward the end of her life, so that her final volumes link lyric perception with political and religious commitment.

Editorial Reviews


"A beautifully written, impeccably researched biography of a great activist poet whom Kenneth Rexroth called the 'most profound, the most modest, and most moving.'"
(Tom Lavoie Shelf Awareness 2013-05-03)

"Levertov's life is intrinsically interesting; stubbornly individualistic, she subscribed to no particular school of poetry. . . . Her influence remains pervasive."
(Eric Ormsby Times Literary Supplement 2013-05-24)

"This biography is the labor of many years and of deep reflection and care. . . . For lovers of Levertov and students of her poetic era and its vast crowd of characters, it will be worth the wait."
(David Mehegan Arts Fuse 2013-05-22)

"Like a good teacher, a good biographer opens doors or shows us new things in rooms to which we thought we already had access. . . . “A Poet’s Revolution” turns the many faces of Denise Levertov’s poetry to the light. It’s a weighty volume, worth every ounce."
(Richard Wakefield Seattle Times 2013-07-08)

"Ladies and gentlemen: the poet is in the world. In more ways than one, now that this new biography of Denise Levertov (author of The Poet in the World) has hit the scene."
(Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog 2013-07-09)

From the Inside Flap

“Donna Hollenberg's long-awaited biography of Denise Levertov illuminates for us the mind and career of a poet who embodied the passionate idealism and the ideological tensions of America's last half-century. Hollenberg's work chronicles the poet's struggles with family, with other poets and with herself--with scrupulous and sometimes heartbreaking intimacy, revealing but never over-explaining the connections between Levertov's life and the beauty and subtlety of her writing.”—Alicia Ostriker, author of The Crack in Everything

"[Hollenberg's] account of the evolution of Levertov’s ‘revolution,’ the path of her poetic and political ‘pilgrimage,’ is informed and thorough, sympathetic but balanced. This is a book that fills a real need and will be a benchmark in our understanding of this poet and her place in American letters."—Albert Gelpi, Coe Professor of American Literature, emeritus, Stanford University

"This deeply researched and beautifully written biography provides a fascinating portrait of a major poet and her worlds. The book is indispensable for anyone interested in postwar American poetry in the Pound-Williams line. But Levertov's story is not only about the growth of a poet's mind. We follow her through the drama of twentieth century history and cultural change as she calls us not only to 'taste and see' but to protest and revolt."—Bonnie Costello, author of Planets on Tables: Poetry, Still Life and the Turning World

Product Details

  • File Size: 5418 KB
  • Print Length: 532 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0520272463
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (April 17, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BK2PKQ6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,462 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Levertov biography August 2, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A valuable resource for its lengthy analyses of Levertov's poems, but less satisfactory as a biography.

After reading a glowing review of this book by Richard Wakefield in the Seattle Times, I was anxious to read it. I was disappointed. True, Levertov's poems are treated fulsomely, as they should be, but the book quickly degenerates into an expanded book list of the "she lived here, and wrote that; moved there and wrote this" variety. There are huge paragraphs of name-dropping of other contemporary poets, but ultimately Levertov the woman remains a grey and shadowy figure.

The events of her life -- the stuff of legend and with enough scope for several novels -- is related in a bland, colorless way. Of the 14 photos in the book, only four are of Levertov -- and one of those shows her as a child of 18 months! On page 161, a friend is quoted as saying she had a wonderful sense of humor, but we are never shown any examples of this. Her relationship with her only son was troubled and her marriage ended in divorce, but the reasons are only hinted at.

The first half of the book uses virtually no quotes from the many letters, diaries, and interviews the author consulted, which makes the reading very heavy going. This situation does improve -- a bit -- in the latter third of the book, but ultimately I came away frustrated at how much seemed to have been glossed over. Whether this was a choice on the part of the biographer, or whether the heavy hand of familial censorship was at work in attempting to protect Levertov's posthumous privacy, the result was ultimately unsatisfying.

As a poet who was considered for Poet Laureate of the USA, Levertov is someone I would have liked to know better. Pity we weren't allowed to.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a remarkable life of courageous song May 18, 2013
This biography of Denise Levertov is a very detailed and eloquently written book about one of our language's most sensitive poets, sensitive to justice in public life as well as to the movement of words perfectly line by line. Henry Braun
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great biography. July 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved the book but the Kindle version had lots of words spaced into syllables. Author very well acquainted with sources.
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