Reading: Hypocrite Women by Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov (1923-1997) was a prolific British-born American writer who never received formal education. Influences are among others the Blue Mountain school, William Carlos Williams, Rilke. She was a very serious social activist who at times seemed arrogant to her readers. Here is a poem that is prettily vulgar:

Hypocrite women
Hypocrite women, how seldom we speak
of our own doubts, while dubiously
we mother man in his doubt!

And if at Mill Valley perched in the trees
the sweet rain drifting through western air
a white sweating bull of a poet told us

our cunts are ugly—why didn’t we
admit we have thought so too? (And
what shame? They are not for the eye!)

No, they are dark and wrinkled and hairy,
caves of the Moon …__________And when a
dark humming fills us, a

coldness towards life,
we are too much women to
own to such unwomanliness.

Whorishly with the psychopomp
we play and plead—and say
nothing of this later.______________And our dreams,

with what frivolity we have pared them
like toenails, clipped them like ends of
split hair.

“We mother man in his doubt”, verbing the substantive ‘mother’ so it relates to smother (doesn’t it?) is a nice idea, Denise. I think of the Freudian joke
“Do you mind that your wife is 30 years older than you?”
-“No it doesn’t mother.”

I couldn’t google which famous male bully poet lived in Mill Valley, but that doesn’t matter either. His message was confronting enough. But she disagrees and likenes the female genitalia to the caves of the Moon, there is no chance doubt can get a word in. Even filled with that coldness towards life, they won’t own (admit to wrongdoing) to such unwomenliness.

It’s all a frivolous and whorish play, nothing that affects them, let alone make them share their darkest doubts with each other. Instead, they play lightheartedly with dreams as if at the pedicure or hairdresser. I don’t know if I ‘get it’ because I am of the male persuasion and on top of that a philosopher for whom there is no life without doubt;-

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