Research and Production by Dr. Larry R. Smith
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Link to Books by Denise Levertov
Link to Denise Levertov on Poetry-Life


    Oct. 24, 1923 Priscilla Denise Levertov is born in Essex, England.
    She is the third daughter to father Paul, who is an Hasidic Jewish scholar and translator.
    He had adopted Christianity in the Anglican Church.
    Her mother is from Whales Beatrice (Spooner-Jones). She cultivates a love of the arts and reading of literature.
    Denise is home schooled and decides to become a writer at age 5.
    A sister had died as a child,and she had an older sister Olga.


    1930s  She becomes politically aware at a young age, she sells the Daily Worker on the streets and wants to join
    the Communist Party.
    1935  She sends poems to poet T. S. Eliot who writes back encouraging her.
    1939  She is studying ballet and piano, French and Russian; befriends Betty Mitchell.

    1940  She publishes first poem in Poetry Quarterly and begins writing the poems for her first book.
    1943-1945 During WW II she trains and serves as a civilian nurse in London during the bombings.
    1946  She has first love affair with Stephen Peet; she travels with parents to Switzerland.
    Publishes first book The Double Image (UK: The Cresset Press) in the school of the neo-romantics. Praising
    correspondence arrives from American poet Kenneth Rexroth.
    1947  She travels to Holland to teach and also to have an abortion, child from Norman Potter.
    She meets Mitch Goodman a writer in Germany and marries him when back in England (Dec. 2).
    1948  She and Mitch Goodman move to Paris for a time. Through Rexroth she meets James Laughlin in
    Paris, who will become her American publisher; they travel to Italy.
    They move to America and settle in Greenwich Village, summering in Maine.
    1949  Son Nickolai is born; Denise has 6 poems in New British Poets, edited by Kenneth Rexroth.
Mitch and Denise in Paris 1948

    1950’s  They move to France for a year, then back to U.S. at 249 W. Fifteenth Street, NYC.
    She meets Robert Duncan and William Carlos Williams, eventually Robert Creeley.
    Denise works at St. Vincent Hospital part time; Goodman works at getting published.
    The move to Provence area of France near Aix; then to Sori, Italy, then back to US.
    She is connecting with Black Mountain poets, publishes a poem in their Black Mountain Review, edited by
    Robert Creeley; befriends Cid Corman of Origin magazine.
    1954   Father's death; mother moves to live with them; Denise becomes naturalized US citizen.
    1956-1958 They move to Quadalajara, then Oaxaca, Mexico.
    1956   Here and Now (City Lights).
    1958   They return to the U.S. where she gives a reading in San Francisco (Jan 19), then return to the East
    Coast. Living in old apartment at 249 W. 15th Street, NYC; befriends poet Galway Kinnell living nearby.
    Overland to the Islands (Jonathan William Press).
    1959  With Eyes in the Back of Our Heads (New Directions Press).
Denise 1957
Robert Duncan and
Denise Levertov

    1960  She meets and befriends poet Adrienne Rich, then H.D. through Robert Duncan.
    She and Goodman purchase a farm in Temple, Maine for summer residence. Back in NYC they move to
    apartment at 277 Greenwich Street near Hudson River.
    1961  She meets poet activist Muriel Rukeyser. She serves as poetry editor of The Nation and for W. W.
    Norton Publishing.
    The Jacob’s Ladder (New Directions); husband Mitch Goodman publishes anti-war novel The End of It.
    1962-1963 She receives a Guggenheim Award.
    1963  Denise and Mitch are doing Jungian therapy; marriage begins to unravel. Sister Olga dies in England.
    1964  Denise and Muriel Rukeyser form Writers & Artists Protest Against the Vietnam War.
    O Taste and See (New Directions); she will be arrested in protests multiple times.
    1964-1965 Writer in Residence at City College of City University of New York.
    1967  She does activist work against the war; The Sorrow Dance (New Directions).
    1968  Goodman and three others are arrested and sentenced to federal prison for counseling young men to
    refuse military service. Dubbed the "Boston Five," the defendants included famed baby doctor Benjamin
    Spock and Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Marcus Raskin, Michael Ferber, and Goodman. Charges
    were dropped on appeals to ruling by Judge Ford.  
    Levertov is drawn to younger poet George Quasha.   

1970  Relearning the Alphabet (New Directions); Goodman publishes The Movement Toward a New America:
The Beginnings of a Long Revolution (
NY: United Church Press; Pilgrim Press; Knopf; Random House)
To Stay Alive (New Directions); poems make a strong stand for a poetry of engagement.
Footprints (New Directions); she travels with Muriel Rukeyser to Hanoi, Vietnam.
1973  She is professor at Tufts University, Medford, MA, 1973-79 (resigns in 1979); she and Mitch buy a house
at 4 Glover Circle, Somerville, MA.
She develops friendship with former student Steven Blevins. She is drawn into relationships with Richard
Edelman and to Ian Reid.
The Poet in the World (New Directions, prose).
1975  Divorce from Mitchell Goodman; poems of
The Freeing of the Dust (New Directions) treat divorce.
She serves as poetry editor for
Mother Jones magazine.
Relationships develops with Jon Lipsky and Stephen Peet; she moves to Sommerville, Massachusetts.
1977  Her mother dies in Mexico.
Life in the Forest (New Directions).
1979  She begins her realignment with Christianity in her life and poems, ecumenical and resistant to orthodoxy.
Denise Levertov
Mitch Goodman

1981- 1983 She takes part in international conferences on peace and environment;
Paul A. Lacey becomes her literary executor after exit of Carol Rainey. Teaching at Brandeis University,
Waltham, MA.
Pig Dreams: Scenes from the Life of Sylvia done with pastels by Liebe Coolidge (Woodstock, VT: The
Countryman Press);
Light Up the Cave (New Directions, essays).
Candles in Babylon (New Directions); she begins teaching at Stanford University that winter, living
part-time in Palo Alto near the campus; befriends Robert McAfee Brown, professor of religion at Stanford
and a pastor. Franciscan poet and priest Murray Bodo (Ohio) becomes a spiritual advisor.
1983   Befriends and defends Carolyn Forche for politically engaged writing; she embraces elements of new
Catholic faith -- liberation theology. Writes libretto "El Salvador: Requiem and Invocation"
1984   She uncovers notebooks of her mother and father, resolves some conflict.
Oblique Prayers: New Poems (New Directions); presents at James Wright Poetry Festival in Ohio.
1986   She sells her archives to Stanford University.
Breathing the Water (NY: New Directions)
1989  She moves to Seattle, Washington (5535 Seward Park Ave. South) near a woods and Lake Washington
with a vista of the mountains;
A Door in the Hive (New Directions).
Denise Levertov 1980s

    1990  She joins the Catholic Church at St. Edwards, Seattle.
    1991  She actively protests the U.S. attack on Iraq; retires from teaching at Stanford.
    1992   Evening Train (New Directions).
    1994   Lymphoma is diagnosed, also suffers pneumonia and acute laryngitis.
    She continues to give talks and participate at conferences, often on spirituality and writing.
    1995   Tesserae: Memories & Suppositions (New Directions, memoirs).
    1996   Sands of the Well (New Directions).
    1997   Death of Mitch Goodman (Feb. 1).
    Denise Levertov’s death from cardiac failure due to intestine necrosis resulting from lymphoma in Seattle
    (Dec. 20).
    The Stream & the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes (New Directions); The Life Around Us:
    Selected Poems on Nature (New Directions).
    •  Green, Dana. Denise Levertov: A Poet's Life (Chicago: University of
    Illinois, 2012). First full biography of the author.
    •  Hollenberg, Donna Krolik, A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise
    Levertov (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).
  Books by Denise Levertov Link
A Denise Levertov Chronology