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Breathing the Water

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  195 Ratings  ·  16 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, 86 pages
Published March 17th 1987 by New Directions
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Dec 08, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
"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."
Jun 19, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2009 Marion rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2013 Meesh rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Apr 02, 2013 Manuel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poes-a
Gran 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.
Jamie Dougherty
May 23, 2012 Jamie Dougherty rated it it was amazing
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)
Nov 13, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
Krista Stevens
Jan 26, 2013 Krista Stevens rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, religious
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".
Feb 21, 2008 Kati rated it it was amazing
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.
Scott Graham
Apr 23, 2012 Scott Graham rated it really liked it
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'.
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
Jerry Landry
Jun 26, 2012 Jerry Landry rated it liked it
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.
May 20, 2015 Jenny rated it liked it
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.
Frances Brady
Apr 14, 2016 Frances Brady rated it it was ok
I had read an article about Levertov and from the few excerpts of her poetry, I was curious to read more. However, I had been hopeful that these would be spiritual, and I didn't find them lyrical, spiritual, or as rhythmic as I'd hoped
Jan 09, 2012 Hannah rated it liked it
Shelves: british, poetry
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.
Jerry rated it liked it
Dec 18, 2007
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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...

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