Part of our continuing series on the Wild Dog Collection by SHSU Special Collections intern Kara Stafford
Denise Levertov is considered an American author, although she was born in Ilford, Essex, England. Her father was a Hasidic Jew who converted to Christianity and her mother was Welsh. Her mother loved to read and would read to her daughter often. Denise Levertov has claimed to have known at the age of five that she would become an author. At seventeen she had one of her poems published for the first time. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one she wrote her first book, The Double Image. In 1946, when Levertov was about 23, that book got published. It would be the first of many publications by Denise Levertov.
During World War II Levertov worked as a civilian nurse, and was stationed in London throughout the blitz. In 1947 she married Mitchell Goodman, an American writer. They moved to New York City in 1948 and in 1949 their son Nikolai was born. It was through her husband that she became associated with the Black Mountain School. In 1956 not only did Denise Levertov become a Naturalized U.S citizen, but she also wrote a book Here and Now which made her an important voice in the American avant-garde. By 1959, when she published Eyes at the back of our heads, she was seen as one of the great American poets and her British roots were all but forgotten. In 1961 and again from 1963-1965 she was the poetry editor for The Nation magazine. Then, in 1975-1978 she became the poetry editor for Mother Jones Magazine.
During her lifetime Denise Levertov published over twenty volumes of poetry. In 1975 she won the Lenora Marshall Poetry Prize. She was a professor at Stanford University from 1982-1993. In 1997, at the age of seventy-five, she died of complications of lymphoma.
Denise Levertov’s work embraced a wide variety of genres and themes. She wrote nature lyrics, love poems, protest poetry and even poetry inspired by her faith. Her poetry was read by many. Newton Gresham Library’s SHSU Special Collections has a poem by her. The poem is called Threshold and it can be found in the Wild Dog Collection, Issue 4 on page 8. Issue 4 of the Wild Dog is located in Series 2, Subseries 4, Box 8, and Folder 4 of the Collection.
To view and read the poem by Denies Levertov and The Wild Dog Papers visit Newton Gresham Library’s Special Collections On the fourth floor of the Library.