Denise Levertov’s Mexican Sojourn: Poets of the North, Materials of the South

Jarad Jon Zimbler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In what ways might poets or poems of the North encounter the South? Are such encounters necessarily exploitative? These are broad questions, having to do with the nature of poetry’s material, and with modes of its appropriation. In this essay, I tackle them by looking at a two-year period in the life and career of the poet Denise Levertov, who moved from the USA to Mexico in 1956, before returning to New York in the winter of 1958. Whilst in Mexico, Levertov composed a number of poems in which she responded to the places and people she encountered, to the land and landscapes, and to local arts and other cultural artefacts. I look closely at three of these poems–considered in light of Levertov’s correspondence with William Carlos Williams and Robert Duncan, her relations with other of her American peers, including Allen Ginsberg, and her engagement with Spanish-language poets such as Pedro Salinas and Federico García Lorca–and track the ways in which Levertov’s practice was affected by her Mexican sojourn. In so doing, I test certain ideas and presumptions about the nature of literary materials and their portability and acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Ginsberg, Allen
  • Levertov, Denise
  • Literature of Mexico
  • Lorca, Federico García
  • Salinas, Pedro
  • Williams, William Carlos


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