Denise Levertov was on October 24, 1923 In Ilford, Essex, England. She came to the United States in 1948 and became a naturalized citizen in 1956. She decided she wanted to be a writer at age 5. At the age of 12, she sent some of her poetry to T.S. Eliot. In response she received two pages of "excellent advice" encouraging her to continue writing. Poetry Quarterly published her at 17.
Levertov felt college didn't agree with her, and decided in- stead to train as a nurse, and she spent three years in London, rehabbing war veterans in WWII. Every night after she shift, she would write.
Her first book, The Double Image, was published in 1946. Jean Gould, author of Modern American Women Poets, wrote of this book, "The young poet possessed a strong social con- sciousness andÉ showed indications of the militant pacifist she was to become."
By 1948, Levertov had married Mitchell Goodman, and writ- ten her second book of poetry, Here and Now, which showed her new, more American voice. Kenneth Rexroth said of her after this second book, "The Schwärmerei and lassitude are gone. Their place has been taken by a kind of animal grace of the word, pulse like the foot falls of a cat of the wingbeats of a gull. It is the intense aliveness of an alert domestic love - the wedding of form and content."
Her next book, With Eyes at the Back of our Heads, established her as one of the great American poets, and her British origins were forgotten by the reading public. She soon became heavily influenced by the Black Mountain Poets, the trio of Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley, who had formed a short-lived, but groundbreaking school in 1933 in North Carolina. Her work was published in the 1950s in the Black Mountain Review.
After hearing Ginsberg's Howl, Levertov traveled to San Francisco. There she caught up with the anti war movement going on, and her involvement in protests landed her in jail. To this day, she still demonstrates against nuclear arms. At this time, some critics began to shun her political poetry, demanding a separation in her work. She refused, saying poetry cannot be "divided from the rest of life necessary to IT. Both life and poetry fade, wilt, shrink, when they are divorced."