A year before her death, Denise Levertov published two slim collections of her poetry, each volume with a particular focus or theme. In the Foreword to the volume devoted to a selection of her religious poems, she explains:
Included here are poems from seven separate volumes, the earliest dating from 1978; and although the sequence is not wholly chronological it does, to some extent, trace my own slow movement from agnosticism to Christian faith, a movement incorporating much of doubt and questioning as well as of affirmation . . . .
The other volume contains some of her “ecologically concerned” and nature poems. Given the importance of these two themes in Levertov’s writing, it’s no surprise that some of her best poems would weave the two together, for example the following:
For Carolyn Kizer and John Woodbridge,
Recalling Our Celebration
of George Herbert’s Birthday, 1983
As swimmers dare
to face the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
Citations for the two books:
- The Stream and the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes. New York, NY: New Directions Books, 1996.
- The Life Around Us: Selected Poems on Nature. New York, NY: New Directions Books, 1996.