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Tesserae
     

Tesserae

by Denise Levertov, Sylvia Frrezzolini Severance (Designed by), Tim Davis (Photographer)
 

"A series of mini-memoirs bound together like a mosaic."—Publishers Weekly
Tesserae, the small individual pieces of glass or stone that make up a mosaic, is an apt title for this series of memoirs by Denise Levertov.
Rather than a completed autobiography, these collected memoirs are, for the author, fragments "composed from time to time between poems."

Overview

"A series of mini-memoirs bound together like a mosaic."—Publishers Weekly
Tesserae, the small individual pieces of glass or stone that make up a mosaic, is an apt title for this series of memoirs by Denise Levertov.
Rather than a completed autobiography, these collected memoirs are, for the author, fragments "composed from time to time between poems." Each of the twenty-seven pieces of Tesserae explores a memory vital to Levertov's life; each is complete in itself and set here chronologically. And, as in any good mosaic, every piece reflects light at different angles, giving this self-portrait its living complexity. Tesserae differs for the first time the unique memoirs or "a poet who may just be the finest writing in English today" (Kirkus Reviews).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Acclaimed poet Levertov presents a series of mini-memoirs bound together like a mosaic. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Tesserae are pieces of a mosaic, and these brief prose pieces-not quite prose poems, not quite essays-are autobiographical fragments that offer a context for Levertov's largely nonconfessional poetry. Epitaphs to the lost world of late childhood, they disclose the seemingly slight, often humorous minutiae that make up a formidable artistic sensibility. Levertov, who now lives in the United States, was raised among the bohemian elite in England by a nature-loving Welsh mother and a distinguished Anglican priest father from a scholarly Russian-Jewish family. Particularly amusing is a piece from a series entitled "Metting and Not Meeting Artists," in which the author's parents navely attempt to enlist a fashionable French painter to tutor their painter-daughter (their pilgrimage to the artist's studio interrupts his midday tryst). In spite of an irritating fortune-telling motif regarding the writer's predestination for "an extraordinary life," these are elegant, unpretentious pieces that evoke a poet's coming of age in London during World War II. Recommended.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
Donna Seaman
Levertov introduces this lovely set of prose pieces with a disclaimer: "These tesserae have no pretensions to forming an entire mosaic." No, these memories and treasured anecdotes, rendered with Levertov's lyrical lucidity, are, indeed, tesserae waiting to be fit into a pattern: bits of polished marble and tile each worth contemplating on its own, though they do fit together in an organic, if free-form whole. They gleam and glint, reflections from the deep pool from which Levertov draws her poems. Place is a strong presence, whether it's the Russia of her father's boyhood, her mother's memories of North Wales, or Levertov's vision of Florence, and time performs its conjuring tricks as Levertov compares the dense layering of the past with the quick patterning of the present. Levertov devotees will love these, as will any reader interested in how memories transform themselves into story and metaphor.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811212922
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
04/17/1995
Pages:
148
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile:
1240L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Denise Levertov (1923-1997) was a British born American poet. She wrote and published 20 books of poetry, criticism, translations. She also edited several anthologies. Among her many awards and honors, she received the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Frost Medal, the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Lannan Award, a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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