The Letters of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams

By William Carlos Williams; Denise Levertov et al. | Go to book overview

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

The close friendship that grew up between William Carlos Williams and Denise Levertov during a decade of visits and correspondence came at a turning point in both their lives. One, nearing the end of a publishing career that stretched back to 1909, was experiencing in the 1950s, for the first time, widespread notice of his achievement. The other, starting out in a new country and reshaping her poetics in fundamental ways, had just one early book behind her--although within a few years she would receive some of the success and recognition that had taken Williams most of a lifetime to gain.

Levertov told in a number of places her story of discovering Williams's work. As she recalled in an essay on Robert Duncan, she purchased Williams's 1949 Selected Poems from "the American bookstore on the Rue Soufflot, near the Sorbonne." Levertov initially had difficulty knowing how to read the poems, and only recognized fully their importance to her own work once she moved to the United States. In the early 1950s, she recalled, "I was reading a great deal and taking in at each breath the air of American life. William Carlos Williams became the most powerful influence on my poetry" ( PW, p. 67). In her last published interview (with Nicholas O'Connell, quoted in Poets & Writers [ May/June 1998]), conducted two months before her death, she remembered:

-i-

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