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Secular (yet quite spiritual) text by Denise Levertov
Difficulty level (1-5): 2.5
Duration 3:30
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This piece has not yet been premiered. Please contact me if you are interested in premiering this piece.


Living is a beautiful little gem of a poem by Denise Levertov. Levertov's poetry ranges far and wide --  she was known for her anti-war poems and poems about other social issues, her secular poetry, and in her later years, poetry which verged on the religious.

In fact, this particular little poem almost seems to me to be a modern-day relative of a poem, My Life is an Instant, written centuries ago by
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux which I set in the six movement piece This Sparkle of the Day. I  have included it here below the Levertov text for anyone interested in comparing the two.

The musical setting is straightforward, and I use the piano ostinato as a symbol of the life activities that Levertov is observing. Ostinato figures are interesting, they immediately convey motion and activity (... the fire in leaf and grass...), yet by repeating them over and over again, they eventually become a static object (...a red salamander so cold and so easy to catch...")!

Complete perusal score available upon request.



by Denise Levertov

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing the leaves
shivering in the sun
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily
moves his delicate feet,
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go
each moment the last moment.

My Life is an Instant

My life is an instant,
a fleeting hour.
My life is a moment,
which swiftly escapes me.
O my God, you know that
on earth I have only today
to love you.

    -St. Thérèse of Lisieux



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