Academic journal article Chicago Review

Selected Correspondence, 1961-1964

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Selected Correspondence, 1961-1964

Article excerpt

Temple, Maine June 26, '61

Dear Mr Ammons

I've been meaning to write to you for some time past.

Would you let me see some poems for possible use in Nation! I hope so.

Please send direct to above (Maine) address some time in August. (Going to Europe now for 6 weeks). I once met you briefly at the Y- at that time I didn't know your work- had only read yr review of Robert Duncan which I disliked. (I hope 'The Opening of the Field' will have by now caused you to recognize Duncan as a very very much better poet than you judged him to be from the Selected (Early) poems. Perhaps you've read Letters too. . . I know you've been in touch with Jonathan.

Anyway, after I saw some of your own poems I forgave you that!

Yours sincerely

Denise Levertov.

801 Debora St.

Northfield, N.J.

August 13, 1961

Dear Miss Levertov,

I was truly pleased to get your letter some weeks ago before you left for Europe (hope you're returned safely now). I've wanted to write you for years but lacked courage where there was so much respect- the usual. I've had your new book here for two or three months: I think it is beautiful work beautifully presented.

I'm not surprised you didn't like my review. I don't like it, either. It was the first I'd ever done, I had no background material on Duncan, and I forced myself to do it because it had to be done. I learned enough to know that I'm not reviewing any more books. I don't mean to say that the review was criticized much or that I now feel different about Duncan's work- that one of Duncan's works. I couldn't feel much lovingkindness, innocence or sense of wonder in the man behind the work- and I like to see that, reserving the fact, of course, that an innocent man who can't write poetry doesn't help poetry either. If the style is the man, why it is also what he says, and I didn't think I should be instructed in the truth of the man when I could discover that truth simply by reading his poetry. Duncan seems to me an extraordinarily brilliant & sensitive man, so I have no private war on with him, quite the contrary. And I will certainly get to his more recent work before long.

Which is far away from what I want to say here. Your last review in Poetry is for me the best piece of work I've ever seen there- perceptive, balanced, fair, without bias, and beautifully written. My wife, a great "spotter" of excellence, pointed it out to me- this spots & pointing sounds like bird-dogging- and I couldn't have agreed with her more. I hope you will review a lot of books, including, someday, mine (if I ever have one).

I was very glad to be asked to show you something for possible use in Nation. But I don't have anything. A poet without poems. I've been working lately on cantos only- these are, for the most part, long and awkward and too much for The Nation. Hudson just accepted another batch of them, and I was kind of startled. You know, when you're producing volume, some Unes and passages are bound to get by half-baked and then you feel you've violated your art, yourself, and the magazine. So I've laid down a rule to send out no more cantos for a long while. Occasionally, a short, separable poem comes along: I hope you will let me try it with you, when and if it appears.

I received a scholarship to go to Breadloaf, and my wife & I will be leaving in a couple of days. But I wanted to be sure you would have this letter soon to tell you of my gratitude.

I met Jonathan Williams once & thought him a sincere, dedicated man. I think his poems are wonderfully controlled "facts" of sound, clusters (new unities)- beautiful and not vulgar. I've promised Jonathan some money for Jargon series- hope things will ease up so I can fulfill the promise.

A note from you anytime would make me happy. All good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Archie (A. R. Ammons)

277 Greenwich St N.Y. 7 Sept 24th [1961]

Dear Archie

I like the poem ["Visit"] but have some queries:

1 come smallboat' seems a forced construction, awkward. …

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