how things change

Feb 25, 2021 poetry appreciation

I seem to be a bit preoccupied with responsibility at the moment, and once again I’m sharing a poem which concerns it: Denise Levertov’s consideration of how we might go about ‘Making Peace‘. (You can have it read to you here.)

Sometimes—maybe even often, or usually—a poem reminds us that every single word is important. (As a pedant, I find this gloriously vindicating, of course.) One of the things I enjoy about today’s poem is how no word is wasted. Levertov’s language is so evocative and clear: ‘the intense, familiar/ imagination of disaster’; ‘facets/ of the forming crystal’. And she plays so deliciously, satisfactorily, with the imagery of grammar and poetry to remind us both that peace is a process—’Making Peace’—and that it’s not the preserve of ‘the poets’ but something in which we are all involved. Peace inheres (or doesn’t) in all thoughts, ‘rhythms… metaphors… sentences… needs… pauses, and ‘each act of living/ [might be] one of its words’. I love, too, the confidence of her imagery: that peace is ‘an energy field more intense than war’; that ‘each act of living’ might be a facet of the brilliant ‘forming crystal’.

There’s a modesty and realism in this poem, though, as well as the sense of possibility: crystals form slowly, after all, and there are lots of mights, not wills. It’s not Pollyanna-ish, merely a reminder of what we can do, and what might grow from there—the potential impact of ‘mutual aid’. In cold times, these are words to warm yourself by.

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