Denise Levertov's Poem 'Prisoners'

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About Poet: Denise Levertov was born in the United Kingdom 1923 and died in Washington in 1997. Levertov never received a formal education as a kid, therefore, she was taught by her parents about religion and the art of writing. When Levertov was growing up, she was an agnostic (later converted to Christianity in 1984) and many of her poems talk about religion. Due to her writing style, she was considered to be a “Black Mountain” poet. Black Mountain poets were poets in the 1940s and 1950s that attended Black Mountain college in North Carolina (Poetry Foundation). She and only a handful of others attended the college that was led by John Andrew Rice. He enforced four principles that were instilled in the university, which led to all students …show more content…
Levertov talks about going through life in chains and how we are prisoners of life. She says this because, “all the long journey, we shall have gone in chains, fed on knowledge-apples acrid and riddled with grubs” (Levertov). Apples generally have a connotation about smart, good, and healthy, but in this poem, the apple is tainted due to the drive of wanting to comprehend life. We are too caught up in trying to understand and know things and this has caused us to be prisoners of our own lives. This has resulted us trying to figure out what is next rather than seeing what is right in front of us. She thinks that we should just enjoy the journey of life preferably instead of looking too far ahead. Another example Levertov use is, "We taste other food that life, like a charitable farm-girl, holds out to us as we pass-but our mouths are puckered, a taint of ash on the tongue” (Levertov). She is saying that there are many opportunities in life, but we are too caught up in trying to figure out the next step when we need to be focussing on the task at hand. There are so many occasions on which people are too single-mindedly, trying to find the key to life, that they are too ignorant to know when the answer is right in front of them. Levertov believes that we are “prisoners” of life and she deduces from this that freedom can be obtained from the “chains” by reflecting on

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