The Postcards: A Triptych

Article excerpt

Denise Levertov is an English-born poet who emigrated to the United States in 1948. The Spring-Summer 1966 issue of Chicago Review featured two poems, a short piece of fiction, and pages from her notebooks; in the latter, she discusses the poetics of Charles Olson who (with other Black Mountain poets such as Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley) had a great influence on her work. Duncan in particular encouraged her exploration of issues relating to women, and she did so by addressing female mythological figures. "The Postcards: A Triptych," included here, is one example of this kind of meditation; it has subsequently appeared in her collection, The Sorrow Dance (1967), and in her Poems: 1960-1967 (1967).

The Minoan Snake Goddess is flanked by a Chardin still-life, somber and tranquil, and by Mahommedan angels brilliantly clothed and with multicolored wings, who throng round a fleshcolored horse with a man's face on whose back rides a whiteturbaned being without a face, merely a white, oval disk, and whose hands too are unformed, or hidden in blue sleeves. Are the angels bringing attributes to this unconscious one? Is he about to made human? One bends to the floor of heaven in prayer; one brings a bowl (of water?), another a tray (of food?); two point the way, one watches from on high, two and two more indicate measure, that is, they present limits that confine the way to a single path; two debate the outcome, the last prays not bowed down but looking level towards the pilgrim. …