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The Flight*

Dreamed 1945 by Denise Levertov
      "The will is given us that
          we may know the
delights of surrender." Blake with
tense mouth, crouched small (great forehead,
somber eye) amid a crowd's tallness in a narrow room.
                                             The same night
a bird caught in my room, battered
from wall to wall, missing the window over & over
                                                      (till it gave up and
                             huddled half-dead on a shelf, and I
                             put up the sash against the cold)

and waking at dawn I again
pushed the window violently down, open
                        and the bird gathered itself and flew
                        straight out
                        quick and calm (over the radiant chimneys-

*The quoted words were spoken by Blake in my dream. This was London, 1945.


The first dream I can recall having written into a poem ("The Flight," Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960), was dreamed in London in 1945 but not composed until several years later, probably in New York. The encounter with William Blake--who was sitting on the floor, his back against a wall and his knees drawn up, and whose prominent, unmistakable eyes gazed up at me as he spoke--was so memorable that the lapse of time has scarely blurred it... Yet if I'd tried to write the poem at the time of dreaming I would not have had the craftsmanship to accomplish it, and it would have been lost to me, because once crystallized in an inadequate form it would almost inevitably have become inaccessible to another attempt.

--Denise Levertov


Denise's comment is from an essay titled "Interweavings: Reflections on the Role of Dream in the Making of Poems," in Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams (ed. Roderick Townley, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998). I recommend the whole essay--she discusses issues facing any dreamer trying to convey a dream's mood, experience or message to others (regardless of medium).

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: dream advice - dream mentors - revenants (the dead returning) - surrender - two dream-poems by Blake: Lost Ant and The Angel - birds - flying dreams - freedom and prison - dream-poems - more Denise Levertov -

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