Tesserae: Memories and Suppositions

Denise Levertov, Author
Denise Levertov, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $18.95 (148p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1292-2
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 148 pages - 978-0-8112-1337-0
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``Moments of childhood lodge in one's memory sometimes for reasons--their beauty, drama, or comedy; others equally tenacious are unaccountable: why that instant rather than a million others?'' So asks Levertov (The Jacob's Ladder) in these 27 brief, autobiographical prose pieces. Though much described is universal to childhood (secret places and societies, loss and fear, best friends and first loves), Levertov's memories are tinged with the exotic. Educated by her mother amid extensive world travel, she was often in the company of such celebrated thinkers, artists and writers as T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Olivier, Paul Robeson, Franz Werfel and Emlyn Williams, though she was unaware of their status at the time. As in her poetry, Levertov's descriptions and characterizations can be flawless; her ability to relate an incident is at once timeless and immediate, boundless and searingly personal. Outstanding examples include ``Gypsies,'' ``The Gardener'' and ``By the Seaside,'' each filled with frank observations of the folly and mysticism of youth, of chances and dreams lost, of seconds that altered fate; and ``Cordova,'' capturing ``a little task which a child's imagination transformed into an adventure.'' ``These tesserae have no pretensions,'' Levertov notes. She is right--these lovely, lyrical remembrances are too true and spare ever to invite such criticism. (Apr.)
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