What a wonderful foray into interfaith poetry we had last week. Thank you for your enthusiasm and close, insightful reading! As I said before, you all have greatly impressed me with your faithful attentiveness to these poems. Keep engaging these poems; keep listening with the ear of your heart.
This week we will be devoting our attention to the work of Denise Levertov, a Catholic poet who wrote in an organic, free-form verse. The poems I have selected are “The Servant-Girl at Emmaus (A Painting by Velazquez)” and “St. Thomas Didymus.”
“The Servant-Girl at Emmaus” is an
, or a poem which describes and expands upon a scene or work of art. Think of it like an
Ignatian Imaginative Prayer
, the form of prayer in which you imagine yourself in a Biblical scene and notice what you can hear, see, taste, and touch. Levertov is doing just that—imagining encounters with Christ through the lens of Biblical witnesses—in these poems. Take a look at the
which inspired this poem, and note the interplay between these two works of art.
If you have time, I encourage you to read the supplemental articles in order to deepen your understanding of Levertov’s work.
But most importantly, I would love for you to print these poems so that you can mark them up with a pencil or pen. Post them in a place you can see them. Sit with them throughout the week. If a particular line or phrase jumps out at you, whisper it as a prayer to God. Memorize a line (or the full poem!) and step into its hidden rhythms.
(Please let Maria know ASAP if you need these materials printed and mailed to you on a weekly basis!)
We’ll be looking at some of what Levertov does through her poetic choices. Take a look at this guide on reading poetry as you dive into these poems. The questions will help you make sense of what is going on at a literal, metaphorical, and theological level.
As always, I would encourage you to pick a line or phrase that sticks out to you and journal about it. Some guiding questions:
- Lord, what (if anything) are you trying to tell me in this word or phrase that nudges me so?
- Where are you in this poem for me?
- What might you be telling me or wanting me to realize?
Here are some great articles to help get you acquainted with Levertov’s imagination and faith:
You can access the highest quality painting, with zoom in and zoom out capabilities, here:
Diego Velázquez, Spanish, 1599-1660