David Reads “Making Peace” by Denise Levertov

Cover of "Making Peace (New Directions Bi...
Cover of Making Peace (New Directions Bibelots)

My friend Ann Keeler Evans is also my minister, or the closest I have to one, and she’s been getting me to think a lot about peace lately. She posts an inspirational poem each day, and unlike me, she posts in the morning, not after midnight! And has been doing so for months! Funny thing is that often what she writes is just the sort of thing I needed to hear that day. I’ll be reading something of Ann’s this week that is of a slightly different matter, the problem of domestic violence, but I couldn’t help think of her peace poems when I first saw this poem by Denise Levertov, “Making Peace.”

So click here to check out Ann’s daily thoughts on peace. You may find them nourishing as I do in these troubled days. But let’s be honest, days have always been troubled. Do we really think we can get beyond that? Well. Some of us do. But it takes time, and many people doing daily things to put their dreams of peace into life in the world, to turn hope into something tangible. If, as I said before, there really is more light in the world than darkness, we need to be shining in very practical ways, more and more of us, daily.

Ah, Ann, look, this almost turned into a sermon, and I was only wanting to share a poem. Upon first reading this piece by Denise Levertov I thought, Wow, I’m going to like this. But by the second stanza when she said that peace “can’t be imagined before it is made,” I thought, Wait, yes it can! Can’t it? Can’t we bring it into existence by. . . and then I read “until we begin to utter its metaphors, / learning them as we speak.” Ah yes. . . Then I decided to stop arguing, let her talk, and just enjoy the poem.

Let’s do that now. Here is my reading of Denise Levertov’s “Making Peace,” (belatedly) day 24 of my April record-a-poem-a-day project for Poetry Month.

Making Peace
— Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

From Breathing the Water. Copyright © 1987 by Denise Levertov.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    I like the poem, of course, David, but I loved your intro …


    1. Thank you, Jamie! I like when a poem spurs me to dialogue with it.


  2. D.C. says:

    Hi there! i nominated you for a blog award! Post will be up tomorrow 🙂


    1. Aw, D.C. So kind. Thank you!


  3. Oh, David, what a wonderful B-day gift. I’ve had ups and downs with her work liking, not liking. but this is exquisite… and so are you. what a gift my friend…


    1. I feel the same regarding her work, but this one really grabbed me with its sincerity and power. And since this was supposed to be day 24, the best is yet to come. 🙂


  4. An excellent poem. Thanks for this one.


    1. My pleaseure, Tilly!


  5. slpmartin says:

    For me, your intro really enhanced my feelings about the poem and as I have noted before your reading was truly resonant with the poet’s underlying written tone.


    1. Both of those compliments really mean a lot, Charles. It’s good to know when I pull it off. Thank you!


  6. Anonymous says:

    Nicely read….k


  7. lovely revery david…i too like to read the mind of someone good who’s got something to share first thing in the morning..there’s a very bright well meaning man called seth godin who i subscribe to everyday…it’s fairly short/concise,and at first glance seems to be about business or marketing,but what he’s actually doing is encouraging us to raise our bar in the way we think and behave….and what you’re putting over in this post does that too….hats off to you good man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always a joy to see you stopping by here! Thank you.


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