Knowing Denise Levertov
Much more than the story of Mark Pawlak’s apprenticeship to a major poet (Denise Levertov), My Deniversity is a brilliant and delightful introduction to what it means to commit one’s self to Poetry, capital P. Guided by Levertov, aspiring physicist Mark Pawlak turned himself into an important American poet and co-editor of Hanging Loose, one of the country’s longest lived and most influential literary presses. Open-hearted, witty, and genuinely instructive, the book is simultaneously a reminiscence, a social history of a singular period in American letters, and an insider’s guide to the craft. My Deniversity belongs on the shelf alongside Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Pound’s ABC of Reading.
—Askold Melnyczuk, author of The Man Who Would Not Bow, founder of Agni.
Mark Pawlak gives us a vivid, perceptive account of his years as a student, mentee, and friend of Denise Levertov, from the late 1960s until her death in 1997. He brings alive her approach to writing poetry and to being a political activist, and offers distinctive memories of other important people in her life, including her husband, Mitch Goodman and her son, Nikolai Goodman, as well as other poets who were her contemporaries or former students. We also hear about her literary and personal preferences and views. Reading this will bring you to Levertov’s figurative kitchen table.
—Donna Krolik Hollenberg, author of A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov.
Mark Pawlak was there, and My Deniversity is his memoir of his years of friendship with Denise Levertov and how under her tutelage he became a poet. Here we encounter Levertov as teacher, social activist, poet, friend, parent, and daughter. We learn of her generosity and her inconsistencies and her fiercely held views on poetics, feminism, homosexuality, confessionalism, Language poets and political poetry as well as her relationships with William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan. In this first-hand, vibrant account Denise Levertov comes alive for the reader.
—Dana Greene, author of Denise Levertov: A Poet's Life and Elizabeth Jennings: The