by Denise Levertov

Page 3

A group of poems that I've been writing I call spin-offs. I have two sets of them and one set came from contemplating some photographs by the photographer Peter Braun, who asked me to write an introduction for a book of his photographs. And I did, in fact, eventually write an introduction, but while looking at the photographs, I found myself writing poems which spun off from the pictures in an oblique way. They were not descriptions, which is why I think of them as spin-offs, like sparks flying off from some surface or from something which is struck.

About a year later I found myself writing another set of spin-offs, this time from phrases and sentences that jumped up at me from the page of what I happened to be reading, from prose works that I happened to be reading-apart from detaching themselves from their context, almost seeming to be in larger print-much the way in which, when I was a child of about eight or nine, for a year, approximately, I was an unexploited sort of rocking horse winner, because I used to listen to the radio accounts of big horse races like the Darby and the Grand National (this was England of course) and I began to know who was going to win. And then I got interested and started looking at the newspaper and again a word would come up to me, a name of a horse, would come up to me, and I would know that that was the horse that was going to win, but nobody knew. Even if my family had known, they knew nothing about horse-racing and they would not have known how to place a bet.

Well, in the same way, these phrases came up for me and sparked spin-off poems. They don't have a sequential relationship to each other, but they form a set. I'm going to read you some of those. The sentences form the titles, in some cases, rather long for titles.

The sea's repeated gesture

Stroking its blue shore
throughout the night, patient, patient,
determined rhetoric that never
persuades, the rocks unwilling
to be pebbles, nights and days and
centuries passing before the pebbles
dwindle to join the sand, the sand itself
at last barring the sea's way
into the land, an island
forming from the silt. Yet still
all this night and all
the nights of our life the sea
stoking its blue shore,
patient, patient-

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