Denise Levertov's Mexican sojourn

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In what ways might poets or poems of the North encounter the South? Are such encounters necessarily exploitative? These are broad questions, having to do with the nature of poetry’s material, and with modes of its appropriation. In this paper, I tackle them by looking at a two-year period in the life and career of the poet Denise Levertov, who moved from the USA to Mexico in 1956, before returning to New York in the winter of 1958. Whilst in Mexico, Levertov composed a number of poems in which she responded to the places and people she encountered, to the land and landscapes, and to local arts and other cultural artefacts. I look closely at three of these poems – considered in light of Levertov’s correspondence with William Carlos Williams and Robert Duncan, her relations with other of her American peers, including Allen Ginsberg, and her engagement with Spanish-language poets such as Pedro Salinas and Federico García Lorca – and track the ways in which Levertov’s practice was affected by her Mexican sojourn. In so doing, I test certain ideas and presumptions about the nature of literary materials and their portability and acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
Publication statusSubmitted - 22 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Not yet published as of 09/03/2022.


  • Denise Levertov
  • William Carlos Williams
  • Robert Duncan
  • Allen Ginsberg
  • Pedro Salinas
  • Federico García Lorca
  • Black Mountain poetry
  • the Beats
  • literature of Mexico
  • literary field
  • literary material


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