Denise Levertov was raised on the literary works of Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. Educated entirely at home, she decided to become a writer at the age of five and when she was twelve, sent some of her poetry to T.S. Eliot, who responded with two pages of ‘excellent advice,’ and encouragement to continue writing.
In 1947 Levertov moved to America with her husband Mitchell Goodman, where she was introduced to the Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau, the formal experimentation of Ezra Pound, and, in particular, the work of William Carlos Willams. Through her husband's friendship with the poet Robert Creeley, she became associated with the Black Mountain poets. She eventually moved away from the fixed forms of English, developing an open, experimental style. With the publication of her first American book, Here and Now (1956), she became an important voice in the American avant-garde. Her poems of the fifties and sixties won her immediate and excited recognition, not just from peers like Creeley and Robert Duncan, but also from the avant garde poets of an earlier generation such as Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams.
Kenneth Rexroth described her in the New York Times as ‘the most subtly skilful poet of her generation, the most profound, the most modest, the most moving.’