Featured Anthology: Staying Alive – Denise Levertov

The first poem to feature from our second featured anthology, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, is ‘Living’ by Denise Levertov. Born in England but living most of her adult life in America, Levertov was influenced by the Transcendentalism of Emerson and ThoreauEzra Pound‘s experimentation with the poetic form, and in particular, the work of William Carlos Williams. She would become one of the most important voices in the American avant-garde, gaining immediate and excited acclaim for her poetic works in the fifties and sixties, both by the public and fellow poets.

In ‘Living’, Levertov describes how time passes when you stop to notice the finer, natural details in life. She shows that time and nature, although seeming to come to points of conclusion in our experiences, actually remain endless.

Living

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

(This poem is reproduced with permission from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (2002, Bloodaxe Books), edited by Neil Astley.)