The New Asceticism and a Poem by Levertov

Certain ‘minimalist’ poets have much to offer an age in which words are suspect. Levertov’s translations of Guillevic for example. Levertov herself wrestled with the problem of rhetoric. If in youth she absorbed some values from Williams, fair enough; her searching passionate nature plunged her into spiritual depths; sometimes the poems are ‘pure.’ The ambiguity of the term ‘pure poetry’ may have found a new context!

‘The Cat as Cat’ uses the basic narrative of lyric contemplation —- outside, inside, down/up (to riff on Augustine)—- to meditate the between world of her cat and herself (flesh/spirit). Themes—-metaphors, mirrors, I-Thou)—-appear briefly, suggestively. The poem concludes with a minimalist anthem lullaby.


Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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