Evening Train

Denise Levertov, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $17.95 (120p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1219-9
In her 20th book of poetry, Levertov ( New and Selected Essays ) meditates on the timeless--the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, the earth's fragility, the reality of God--and the timely: the Gulf War. She notices ``the wooded ridge defined / by serrations of pine and fir.'' She sifts through the life of John Ruskin in ``The Faithful Lover'' to wonder whether Yosemite would have stunned him with its beauty or whether art would instead ``have pulled him back in the end / to layered history felt in the bones.'' When her work falters, Levertov's images lack freshness: ``the rain's / insistent heartbeat''; ``I had so much to do, / a list as long as your arm.'' But when she risks judgments beyond description, her power is obvious: examining Leonardo's interest in instruments of war, she imagines him ``suspending / the life of art / over an abyss . . . a living child out of an airplane window / at thirty thousand feet.'' She also writes of a man dying of AIDS with parents who ``chatter and still won't talk, won't listen,'' who never hear ``his life at last.'' We look to Levertov for a master's suspenseful verdict on reality, for a poet with the courage to tell us, ``though I claw at empty air and feel / nothing, no embrace, / I have not plummeted.'' (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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