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Guide to the Denise Levertov Papers
M0601  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Denise Levertov papers provide a remarkable window into the life of this important English-born, American poet. According to Kenneth Rexroth, Denise Levertov was "the most subtly skillful poet of her generation, the most profound, the most modest, the most moving." Her papers document the process of her writing, her relationships with others of her generation, and the role of this "poet in the world." The family papers (series 1), which feature substantial correspondence with Levertov's mother, with her former husband Mitchell Goodman and with her son, combine with Levertov's personal papers to offer a rich source for biographical study. The manuscripts (series 2) and notebooks (series 3) document Levertov's creative process, recording the development of individual poems from earliest drafts to printed texts. Levertov's correspondence (series 4) with other writers and public figures open numerous avenues into contemporary literary and social history. Especially important are the letters from fellow writers William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Hayden Carruth, Gael Turnbull, Eve Triem, and Susan Glickman. Also important is the correspondence with Levertov's longtime editor at New Directions, James Laughlin. The remainder of the collection contains Levertov's professional papers (series 5), accumulated printed materials, and personal artifacts. Taken together, these papers provide the researcher with as complete a portrait of Levertov and her times as is currently available.
Background
Denise Levertov, an Anglo-American poet who took up such social and political issues as the Vietnam war and nuclear proliferation, was born in Ilford, England, in 1923. The daughter of a prominent scholar and a Welsh mother, Levertov was privately educated in England before coming to the United States in 1948 with her husband, the American novelist Mitchell Goodman. In nearly fifty years, in 24 volumes of poems, Levertov became one of the United States's most prominent writers. Her writing is uncompromising, dignified by a spare and clear style and with an immediacy of language in the tradition of William Carlos Williams. For example, in "The ache of marriage," Levertov writes:
Extent
ca. 159 linear ft.
Restrictions
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.
Availability
Collection is open for research; materials must be requested at least 24 hours in advance of intended use.