As one goes on living and working, themes recur, transposed into another key perhaps. Single poems that seemed isolated perceptions when one wrote them prove to have struck the first note of a scale or a melody. I have heard professors of literature snicker with embarrassment because a poet quoted himself: they thought it immodest, narcissistic. Their attitude, a common one, reveals a failure to understand that though the artist as craftsman is engaged in making discrete and autonomous works--each of which, like a chair or a table, will have, as Ezra Pound said, the requisite number of legs and not wobble--yet at the same time, more unconsciously, as these attempts accumulate over the years, the artist as explorer in language of the experiences of his or her life is, willy-nilly, weaving a fabric, building a whole in which each discrete work is a part that functions in some way in relation to all the others. It happens at times that the poet becomes aware of the relationships that exist between poem and poem; is conscious, after the act, of one poem, one line or stanza, having been the precursor of another. It may be years later; and then, to get the design clear--'for himself and thereby for others,' Ibsen put it--he must in honesty pick up that thread, bring the cross reference into its rightful place in the inscape, the Gestalt of his life (his work)/his work (his life).
In Relearning the Alphabet I published some sections of a poem then called, as a working title, 'From a Notebook,' which I was aware was 'unfinished,' open-ended. In pursuing it further I came to realize that the long poem 'An Interim,' published in a different section of the same volume, was really a prelude or introduction to the Notebook poem. And Mitch Goodman and Hayden Carruth, on reading new parts of the Notebook, showed me that other, earlier poets--such as those I had written about my sister Olga after her death in 1964, and included in The Sorrow Dance --had a relation to it that seemed to demand their reissue in
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Publication information: Book title: Poems 1968-1972. Contributors: Denise Levertov - Author. Publisher: New Directions Pub. Corp.. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 105.
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