Word Cloud: LIGHT


According to my mother, my first word after “mama” and “dada” was “light.” Well, actually, it was “ight” but I was pointing at a lighted lamp, so she knew what I meant.

It’s turned out to be a lifetime fascination.

Light is a recurring theme and symbol in the poetry of Denise Levertov. It’s one of the reasons why she has long been one of my favorite poets.

Here are five of her poems – even when the word does not appear in a poem, light is always present in her work.


Bearing The Light

by Denise Levertov

Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, bears the light beneath the rifted clouds — the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.




Variation On A Theme By Rilke

by Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.


The Breathing

by Denise Levertov

An absolute
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.


 Seeing For A Moment

by Denise Levertov

I thought I was growing wings—
it was a cocoon.

I thought, now is the time to step
into the fire—
it was deep water.

Eschatology is a word I learned
as a child: the study of Last Things;

facing my mirror—no longer young,
  the news—always of death,
  the dogs—rising from sleep and clamoring
     and howling, howling,

I see for a moment
that’s not it: it is
the First Things.

Word after word
floats through the glass.
Towards me.



by Denise Levertov

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.


Denise Levertov (1923-1997) British-born American poet, is known for her anti-Vietnam War poems in the 1960s and 1970s, which also included themes of destruction by greed, racism, and sexism. Her later poetry reflects her conversion to Catholicism. No matter the subject, she was always an acute observer, and wrote with a rare combination of economy and grace. Levertov was the author of 24 books of poetry, as well as non-fiction, and she served as poetry editor of The Nation and Mother Jones. She was honored with the Robert Frost Medal in 1990, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1993. In 1997, Levertov died from complications of lymphoma at the age of 74.


Selected Bibliography

  • O Taste and See: New Poems, (New Directions Press) 1964
  • The Sorrow Dance, (New Directions Press), 1967
  • Oblique Prayers: New Poems, (New Directions Press), 1984
  • A Door in the Hive, (New Directions Press), 1989
  • This Great Unknowing: Last Poems, (New Directions Press), 1999 
  • Poems: 1972-1982, (New Directions Press), 2001
  • The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov, (New Directions Press), 2013


  • Raindrops on winter branches
  • Denise Levertov as a young woman
  • Trees in ground fog
  • Denise Levertov older
  • Red salamander

Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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