The Legacy of Denise Levertov

10:30-11:45 AM on Friday, February 1 at the Associated Writing Programs conference in New York (the Murray Hill Suite in the Hilton, 2nd floor):

F124.  The Legacy of Denise Levertov.  Denise Levertov, who died ten years ago at the end of 1997, remains a powerful and enabling figure for poets.  This panel examines how her work and life continue to influence poets who are interested in formal innovation, in political engagement, and in religious exploration in poetry.  Panelists include former students and colleagues of Levertov; all are poets who read and teach her work.  (Nan Cohen, Kenneth Fields, Elisabeth Frost, Emily Pérez, Emily Warn, Kevin Young)

Beth Frost and I cooked up this panel at last year’s AWP while sitting and chatting with three generations of the Barnstone family in some hotel lounge or other.  We were talking about the curious transformation that a writer’s work endures when that writer dies, and noting that it would soon be ten years since Denise Levertov‘s death, we thought of asking some poets to reflect on what her legacy looks like from here.  (Beth, Emily Warn, and Kevin were students of hers at Stanford; Ken was her colleague there; Emily Pérez has recently been teaching her work to high school students in Seattle, DL’s last home.)

I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say but am not planning to say much myself; as moderator, I’ll make a few introductory comments and then turn the floor over to our speakers.  I plan to have at least fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, left over at the end for questions and comments from the audience; I anticipate (and hope) that some of the attendees will have contributions to make.  If I were speaking, though–I do greatly admire her poetry, and certain poems have become part of me (e.g. “The Ache of Marriage”), but I’d talk about how helpful I have found her essay “On the Function of the Line.”  Arthur Sze mentioned it to me at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference one summer, shortly before I went up to the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference to teach, among other things, a craft class I’d ambitiously titled “‘Break, Break, Break’: Ideas of the Line in Poetry.”  (My, I was glad I read it before the class.  Thank you, Arthur.)

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