Levertov ( Breathing the Water ) displays a newly impressive range in her 19th collection. The rough-hewn jewel of the book is the long poem ``El Salvador: Requiem and Invocation,'' stylized with lines as stark, staccato and dramatically moving as the brutalizing subject. In a world-weary mood, the poet addresses issues of human self-destruction and our rapacious consumption of the earth, musing in ``Kin and Kin,'' ``Perhaps Jeffers was right, our species / best unborn, and once born / better soon gone, a criminal kind, / the planet's nightmare.'' Yet she rises above despair in rapturous paeans to mountains and to clouds: in ``Flying High'': ``lc is correct/pk here a frank exposition, suds you could wash your clothes in, / there an abstract brocade that loops and swivels / in rivers of air.'' Levertov's meditative bent and musical lines may be best observed in poems about divine mysteries--the Annunciation, Calvary's Path, the Harrowing of Hell.are these all poem titles? if so, in quotes./ok as is/pk If some poems seem gs slight, lovely exercises, most are superbly conceived and accomplished. (Nov.)
A poet of unusual mindfulness, Levertov conjoins a delicate, mystical lyricism with a passional political consciousness. The poems in her most recent collection are inspired by the small miracles of the natural world, terrorism in Central America, paintings, and other artists, especially Rilke. Like the mystics she often evokes, Levertov finds transcendence in the acute observation of the ordinary. Indeed, the longing for transcendence suffuses these poems: ``Because/ I know a different need has begun/ to cast its lines out from me/ into a place unknown, I reach/ for a silence almost present,/ elusive among my heartbeats.'' Levertov is among the finest poets writing today; this volume belongs in all collections of contemporary poetry.-- Christine Stenstrom, New York Law Sch. Lib.