Breathing the Water

a Celebration of Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov was a great 20th century American poet who lived in Seattle from 1989 until her death here in 1997. A convert to Catholicism, she wrote about faith, nature and the environment, politics and social justice.



St. Joseph Parish is sponsoring a citywide celebration of Levertov’s legacy as poet, activist and woman of faith. On May 16th, Choral Arts, a vocal ensemble in residence at St Joseph Church, where Levertov was a parishioner, will present the world premiere of a setting of Levertov’s poem Making Peace

Please join us in celebrating the life of this great parishioner.

Schedule of Events

April 27      Introducing Levertov, St. James Cathedral, Pastoral Outreach Center,
                  907 Columbia Street, 7 PM

Writer and teacher Rebecca Brown and Patty Bowman, Director of Social Outreach at St. James Cathedral, will offer a brief outline of Levertov's life then read and discuss a few favorite poems that speak to some of Levertov's concerns as a socially conscious artist, environmentalist and woman of faith.

May 4         Levertov films, The Project Room, 1315 E Pine, 6 PM

The Project Room will be screening two short films about Levertov and some video clips of the poet reading. We will also hear some audio clips. Jan Wallace, friend of Levertov, and writer Rebecca Brown will co-host.

May 5         Homage to Levertov reading, Sorrento Hotel, 7 PM

Featured presenters include Fr. John D. Whitney, SJ, Philip Shaw, Mark Petterson and Jan Wallace, each reading some work by Levertov and some original work inspired by the poet. Music by Rick Miller (of the Half-Brothers). Rebecca Brown, emcee

May 7         Introducing Levertov, St. Joseph Parish Center, 7 PM

Poet and Levertov friend, Jan Wallace; pastor of St Joseph, Fr. John Whitney, SJ, and writer and parishioner Rebecca Brown will present a brief biography of Levertov then read and discuss several Levertov poems, with special emphasis on her Catholic poems and those written during the time she was a parishioner at St Joseph. A St. Joseph middle school student reads original poem written with Levertov Festival visiting writers.

May 9         Levertov gravesite visit, Lake View Cemetery, 11 AM

Fr. Glen Butterworth, SJ offers a gravesite blessing, and Levertov friends and poets Jan Wallace and Emily Warn read Levertov and original poems.

May 14       Levertov evening, Elliot Bay Bookstore, 7 PM

Director of Choral Arts, Robert Bode, and composer John Muehleisen discuss setting Levertov to music. Poets Emily Warn, Jan Wallace and others read Levertov poems about music and art and discuss the poet’s relationships to other arts. More info.

May 16       Reception, St. Joseph Parish Center, 6:15 PM

Brief reading, display of Levertov artifacts, presentation of City of Seattle Proclamation of May 16 as Denise Levertov Day

Preconcert Conversation, St. Joseph Church, 7:30 PM

Choral Arts Director, Robert Bode; composers Melinda Bargreen and John Muehleisne and writer Rebecca Brown.

Choral Arts Concert, St. Joseph Church, 8:00 PM

Concert tickets are available through Choral Arts.
All other events are free and open to the public.


Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; caps and bells.
                                           And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng's clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,
Creator, Hallowed one, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

-- Denise Levertov