Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Breathing the Water” as Want to Read:
Breathing the Water
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Breathing the Water

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  164 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Arranged in seven parts and culminating in the superb "The Showings: Lady Julian of Norwich," Breathing the Water draws the readers deep into spiritual domains––not in order to leave the world behind, but to reanimate our sometimes dormant love for it.
Paperback, 100 pages
Published March 17th 1987 by New Directions
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Breathing the Water, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Breathing the Water

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 272)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
"There will never be that stillness.
Within the pulse of flesh,
in the dust of being, where we trudge
turning our hungry gaze this way and that,
the wings of the morning
brush through our blood
as cloud-shadows brush the land.
What we desire travels with us.
We must breathe time as fishes breathe water.
God's flight circles us."
In the first collection of Levertov's poems that I read, I was struck by her anger and sadness over the Vietnam war, as well as the attention to the natural world I had expected. In "Breathing the Water," her talent for observation of the world around her is again on display, with that focus turned to not just nature but also painting, daily life, photography and literature. But what surprised me this time was her sincere and intelligent exploration of religious themes. She shows me a model for ...more
I picked up this little book because the title intrigued me. This is the first book of poetry I purchased by Ms. Levertov and I fell instantly in love with the depth, beauty and soulfulness of the poems.

I highly recommend that you read it and even memorize some of the beautiful poems.

This is my favorite:


A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it lean
There were two absolutely fantastic poems in here; the others, not so much. Her rhythm is always a little off for me, or her imagery slightly unclear. Maybe that's what she was aiming for. Either way, really close to being the type of poetry I love but not quite my style.
Phillip Goodman
god (or some such person) bless bloodaxe books! the put out book after book of not just incredible modern poetry but also incredibly well bound modern poetry,it all makes it that much more of a joy to read and i only stop this spiel (literally speech, i'm not suggesting i'm talking bull excrement) now so that i can go back to reading it!
Denise levertov is a master (or perhaps that should be mistress though of course that would imply something entirely different) of language, form, structure, an
The Well

At sixteen I believed the moonlight
could change me if it would.
I moved my head
on the pillow, even moved my bed
as the moon slowly
crossed the open lattice.

I wanted beauty, a dangerous
gleam of steel, my body thinner,
my pale face paler.
I moonbathed
diligently, as others sunbathe.
But the moon's unsmiling stare
kept me awake. Mornings,
I was flushed and cross.

It was on dark nights of deep sleep
that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well,
and woke rested, and if not beautiful,
filled with some othe
Jerry Landry
Levertov’s collection of poems explores the connections between the spiritual and the everyday through vivid images and powerful words. Particular favorites of mine were “Making Peace” and “Girls.” If you’re looking for a solid book of poetry, then I would highly recommend this collection. Truly, it’s worth a second or third read in order to truly get all of the references made and ideas contained within her poetic lines.
Jamie Dougherty
She does it all!

Hunting the Phoenix
The Spy
Missing Beatrice
Every Day
During a Son's Dangerous Illness
Making Peace
'the myriad past...'
On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX
Variation on a Theme by Rilke (The Book of Hours, Book 1, Poem 4)
La Cordelle
The Showings, 1-6
Variation and Reflection on a Theme by Rilke (The Book of Hours, Book 1, Poem 7)
I've loved Denise Levertov's poetry ever since I dressed up as her for an English project in high school and staged a mock protest in front of the administration building. Breathing the Water goes everywhere with me, from apartment to apartment and school to school. It's moved across the country to Massachusetts and come back home again. We are inseparable, this book and I.
Excelente poeta en cuanto a la enunciación de una relación con Dios, el arte, la Biblia y una experiencia personal con Él. Hace varios años, estando en Atlanta Ga., escogí este libro para un regalo; la autora aún estaba viva y ofrecía en ese tiempo un taller de poesía. Es un placer releerlo y encontrarse con la verdad poética que exalta a Dios de una manera especial.
A nice little volume, with a few breath-stopping moments of surprise, but also a few places where I lost focus. I liked Levertov's use of source material from history, mythology, and other poets as a jumping-off place for her own poetry.
Scott Graham
Smart, beautiful, and filled with (Christian)faith, but not sentimental. This collection is worth the price simply for her set of poems on Julian of Norwich's mystic classic 'Showings'.
Krista Stevens
Liked section VII the best - more religious/Lenten poems here. Especially liked "Making Peace"
and the phrase "desolation of survival" from "During a Son's Dangerous Illness".
This is another I've been working on slowly; this one since last Christmas. I love it. I will revisit it often. Levertov is spiritual in all the most helpful ways.
Marian Weaver
Marian Weaver marked it as to-read
May 25, 2015
Moon Rock
Moon Rock marked it as to-read
May 06, 2015
Frances marked it as to-read
Mar 11, 2015
Hannah marked it as to-read
Mar 11, 2015
F. A.  Daena
F. A. Daena marked it as to-read
Mar 08, 2015
Sarah marked it as to-read
May 08, 2015
Jen added it
Feb 19, 2015
Lori Carlson
Lori Carlson marked it as to-read
Feb 09, 2015
Charlielous marked it as to-read
Jan 21, 2015
Pepper marked it as to-read
Jan 09, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dark Fields of the Republic
  • After
  • New and Collected Poems
  • The Unswept Room
  • Questions About Angels
  • Scar Tissue: Poems
  • Mountains and Rivers Without End
  • Astonishments: Selected Poems
  • Dien Cai Dau
  • Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hô Xuân Huong
  • Praise
  • Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil
  • Selected Poems: 1931-2004
  • Miracle Fair: Selected Poems
  • Voices
  • Spring and All
  • Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
  • Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk: A Poem in Fragments
Denise Levertov was born in Ilford, Essex, England. Her mother, Beatrice Spooner-Jones Levertoff, was Welsh. Her father, Paul Levertoff, immigrated to England from Germany, was a Russian Hassidic Jew who, after converting to Christianity, became an Anglican parson. At the age of 12, she sent some of her poems to T. S. Eliot, who replied with a two-page letter of encouragement. In 1940, when she wa ...more
More about Denise Levertov...
Selected Poems Poems, 1960-1967 This Great Unknowing: Last Poems The Stream and the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes Poems, 1968-1972

Share This Book