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Denise Levertov Papers


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Correspondence, Folder 1-2

Manuscripts, Folder 3-7

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Denise Levertov Papers, 1942-1977 | MS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: Denise Levertov Papers, 1942-1977Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1942-1977

ID: MS/MS/ms070

Primary Creator: Levertov, Denise (1923-1997)

Extent: 1.0 Boxes

Date Acquired: 08/21/1968

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Consists of correspondence to Charles Wrey Gardiner, an early London mentor; to Richard Deutch, a young students and poet, giving him critical attention and personal encouragement; to Walter Hamady, printer, concerning Hamady's publication of "Psalm Concerning the Castle" [poem].  Also includes typescripts and proofs of "Psalm Concerning ths Castle" and materials toward Levertov's lecture "Chekhov on Hampstead Heath" at Cornell University and the subsequent publication of the poem "Chekov on the West Heath"

Collection Historical Note

Denise Levertov (October 24, 1923 – December 20, 1997) was a British-born American poet. Levertov was born and grew up in Ilford, Essex. Levertov, who was educated at home, showed an enthusiasm for writing from an early age and studied ballet, art, Piano and French as well as standard subjects. She wrote about the strangeness she felt growing up part Jewish, German, Welsh and English, but not fully belonging to any of these identities. When she was five years old she declared she would be a writer. At the age of 12, she sent some of her poems to T. S. Eliot, who replied with a two-page letter of encouragement. In 1940, when she was 17, Levertov published her first poem. During the Blitz of World War II, Levertov served in London as a civilian nurse. Her first book, The Double Image, was published six years later. In 1947, she married American writer Mitchell Goodman and moved with him to the United States the following year. In 1955, she became a naturalized American citizen.

Levertov's first two books had concentrated on traditional forms and language. But as she accepted the U.S. as her new home, she became more and more fascinated with the American idiom. She began to come under the influence of the Black Mountain poets and most importantly William Carlos Williams. Her first American book of poetry, Here and Now, shows the beginnings of this transition and transformation. Her poem “With Eyes at the Back of Our Heads” established her reputation.  During the 1960s and 70s, Levertov became much more politically active in her life and work. As poetry editor for The Nation, she was able to support and publish the work of feminist and other leftist activist poets. The Vietnam War was an especially important focus of her poetry, which often tried to weave together the personal and political, as in her poem "The Sorrow Dance," which speaks of her sister's death.

Much of the latter part of Levertov’s life was spent in education. After moving to Massachusetts, Levertov taught at Brandeis University, MIT and Tufts University. On the West Coast, she had a part-time teaching stint at the University of Washington and for 11 years (1982–1993) held a full professorship at Stanford University, where she taught in the Stegner Fellowship program. In 1984, she received a Litt. D. from Bates College. After retiring from teaching, she travelled for a year doing poetry readings in the U.S. and Britain.

Levertov wrote and published 20 books of poetry, criticism, and translations. She also edited several anthologies. Among her many awards and honors, she received the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Frost Medal the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Lannan Award, a Catherine Luck Memorial Grant, a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Administrative Information

Repository: MS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Gift and Purchase

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 972. Gift of Richard Deutch, August 21, 1968 (Correspondence to Deutch)

Accession number 1363. Purchse from Wallrich, October 23, 1972 (Correspondence to Charles Wrey Gardiner)

Accession number 1366. Gift of Richard Deutch, November 21, 1972 (Correspondence to Deutch)

Accession number 2012.023. Purchase from Clouds Hills Books, August 2012 (Checkov on the West Heath)

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Processing Information: Processed March 1970, December 1972, and August 2012

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, Folder 1-2],
[Series 2: Manuscripts, Folder 3-7],

Series 2: Manuscripts, Folder 3-7Add to your cart.
Item 40: Psalm Concerning the Castle [poem]Add to your cart.
Typescript, 2 pages
Item 41: Psalm Concerning the Castle [poem]Add to your cart.
Proofs, 6 items
Item 42: Chekov on the West Heath [poem], 1977Add to your cart.
Poster advertising Levertov's reading of her lecture "Chekhov on Hampstead Heath" and announcement from Hames McConkey concerning the lecture
Item 43: Chekov on the West Heath [poem], 1977Add to your cart.
Correspondence concerning the publication of Chekov on the West Heath, 8 items
Item 44: Chekov on the West Heath [poem]Add to your cart.
Autograph mock-up of title pages and copyright page, prospectus, typed "Notes," autograph notes in unknown hand, corrected typescript of "Prefatory Note," and typescript [photocopy] of Levertov's Chekhov on the West Heath.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, Folder 1-2],
[Series 2: Manuscripts, Folder 3-7],

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