Hypocrite Women

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
Hypocrite women, how seldom we speak   
of our own doubts, while dubiously   
we mother man in his doubt!

And if at Mill Valley perched in the trees   
the sweet rain drifting through western air   
a white sweating bull of a poet told us

our cunts are ugly—why didn't we   
admit we have thought so too? (And   
what shame? They are not for the eye!)

No, they are dark and wrinkled and hairy,   
caves of the Moon ...          And when a   
dark humming fills us, a

coldness towards life,
we are too much women to   
own to such unwomanliness.

Whorishly with the psychopomp   
we play and plead—and say
nothing of this later.             And our dreams,

with what frivolity we have pared them   
like toenails, clipped them like ends of   
split hair.

Denise Levertov, “Hypocrite Women” from Poems 1960-1967. Copyright © 1966 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)

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Poet Denise Levertov 1923–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Men & Women, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Denise  Levertov


During the course of a prolific career, Denise Levertov created a highly regarded body of poetry that reflects her beliefs as an artist and a humanist. Her work embraces a wide variety of genres and themes, including nature lyrics, love poems, protest poetry, and poetry inspired by her faith in God. "Dignity, reverence, and strength are words that come to mind as one gropes to characterize . . . one of America's most respected . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Men & Women, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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