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Salvador Dali: Influences

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Idealistic Politics

"Few poets of our time have devoted more intellectual energy to exploring the nature of poetic form (Wagner- Martin 188)," than Denise Levertov. Who spent decades of her life fighting for the cause, and fighting for the truth. Levertov, an English immigrant, brought her assertive poetry to the United States following World War II. Having seen the turmoil's that war can bring through out the 1960's and 70's Levertov used her poetry to speak out against the Vietnam War and the mistreatment of protestors. Through such activism Levertov changes America's view of intellectual poetry forever. Denise Levertov's radical and idealistic views are signified through her political voice in the poems "A Note to Olga", "Life at War", and "What Were They Like?"

The first of these political tirades is "A Note to Olga". This poem, written in 1966, displays Denise Levertov's political reality through her ideals and visions (Altieri 241). Her ideals speak of a peaceful world, and her visions appear to be that of safety. In Levertov's poems she does not intend to demonstrate an offense against the government of the United States views, she merely wishes to win over the reader's soul and intellect (Mazarro 183). An intellect that may have been previously "brainwashed" government or media. A passage from a "Note to Olga" reads, "The cops / hurry about, / shoulder to shoulder, / comic." In those few short lines Levertov uses sarcasm to prove a deliberate point. A point proving that those few angry policemen can not stop such a movement, rather than stop children from playing. Levertov was for the peace movements occurring in her era, and worked with activist. Levertov's activism provides and outlet for her moral anger through her poetry. Her growth as a political poet is a personal experience for the reader, leaving them with the edge of political and world awakening. An awakening that may have been altered or over shadowed elsewhere. She writes, "On the Times Square Sidewalk / we shuffle along, cardboard signs / Ð'-stop the war- slung round our necks." A purely written line that will catch the eye of Denise Levertov's fans because "she [has the talent to] meditate on the nature of commitment and on resistance to government sanctioned violence (115)." The commitment and the desire to wish for, and produce, a better world.

Through creating a better world, Denise Levertov, examplifies the worst of the world in her poetry. Worst of the world's government, violence, and people. In a poem titled "Life at War" she displayed her movement against the world's evils. Scott Smith, a critic, said, "The Vietnam War and the social turmoil of the 1960's have compelled LevertovÐ' align with young radicalsÐ'... and address political issues directly in poems and political readings(Smith 158)," such as in "Life at War". Through addressing these political issues Denise Levertov speaks of war in her poetry in such a way that we don't see the hatred, but the lack of the positives in the world (Codini 242). Positives that may be found in a simple world, and a simpler time. In an excerpt from "Life at War" Levertov gracefully words a poetic phrase: "My heartÐ'... / Could I say of it, it overflows /Ð'...the same war / continues (Levertov 6-13)." From those four lines of emotion filled poetry a new sense of passion is felt. Passion that will tingle her fans and critics sense, urging them to read on, and urging them to learn. A enthusiastically filled writing packed with Levertov's courage and sacrifice that are put forth in her prose and verses. The same prose and verses during which we see her awareness of war register. That she details with human traits and emotion. An emotion that portrayed in vitally picturesque settings and through nameless characters. Through out the poem, "Life at War", Denise Levertov's writing progresses from slow, graceful passion to deeply heartfelt emotion. She wrote, "Burned human flesh / is smelling in Vietnam as I write (36-37)." Two lines Levertov wrote to bring a government and a people together in a world wide learning process. These words brought James Altieri, a critic, to say that, "In creating or maintaining a political society particularly in cultures that value freedom and difference (240)," Denise Levertov brought responsiveness with her words.

A responsiveness that continued in some other of her writings such as, "What Were They Like?" A poem that is as thought provoking as it is gloomy in its description of the people of Vietnam. Levertov viewed the Vietnamese as pitiful, but also took the time to articulate them as people. The war and the people of Vietnam are such a dominant part of her poetry that Levertov's reminders of morality in society are inescapable (Altieri 239). Two lines from "What Were They Like?" ask, "Did the people of Vietnam / use lanterns of stone?" reminding us not of war but of the human race that is being killed and tortured in a foreign land; a land that is not just filled with enemy soldiers, but with families, women, and children. Levertov's



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