Posted by: Joelle Jameson | June 21, 2010

“The Life Around Us”: Denise Levertov’s Nature Poetry

Willets in Buxton, NC - photo by Klaire Jameson

Recently I was talking to my friend Alex about the horror that is the oil spill in the gulf coast. In a not directly-related attempt to spread awareness, I want to share some environment-based poems by Denise Levertov (and one about a water bird by Emily Dickinson). I picked seven poems from her collection “The Life Around Us,” which is a collection of poems involving the natural world that she compiled from her other collections. Denise died fairly recently, in 1997, and these poems span her entire career, from the sixties onward. She is known among other things for writing political poetry, which is very easy to do very badly, but she generally pulls it off without being too preachy. But at the same time, she directly confronts the issues, walking a thin line between over-impassioned railing and an overly-veiled description of the problem—usually resulting in interesting and often chillingly honest poems.


“A Bird Came Down the Walk” by Emily Dickinson

“Revivals” by Denise Levertov

“It Should Be Visible” by Denise Levertov

“Those Who Want Out” by Denise Levertov

“Urgent Whisper” by Denise Levertov

“The Vron Woods (North Wales)” by Denise Levertov

“Midsummer Eve” by Denise Levertov

“A Reward” by Denise Levertov


“When Water Comes to Life” by Cloud Cult

“The General Specific” by Band of Horses

“Butterfly” by Weezer

“I Understand It” by Idlewild

“Energy” by The Apples in Stereo



  1. The Government is building an underwater base. The Oil Spill blocks out satellites and give an excuse for all the boats to be out there. The movie will be called “Under Dark Cover.”

    • That sounds a lot like my friend Damian’s unfortunate theory that during hurricane season, the ocean will catch on fire. I told him he should option a script called “Hurricane of Fire.”

  2. I don’t know that sounds cool but thats crude. It will burn hot but I’m thinking it’d dissipate the heat to quickly to remain on fire. But then again I could be wrong. Now say you add A bunch of feathers swimming amuck in the oil then they would act as wicks and it burn for ever.

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