Stanford Report, October 25, 2000
This poem, "Celebration," is from Denise Levertov's last and posthumous volume, This Great Unknowing: Last Poems (New Directions, 1999). Levertov, who died in 1997, taught at Stanford from 1982 to 1993. English Professor Eavan Boland read the poem at the inauguration of John L. Hennessy on Friday, Oct. 20, 2000.
President Hennessy, this poem was written by Denise Levertov, who was professor of English at Stanford and a member of the Creative Writing Program from 1982 to 1993 and a peerless poet.
The poem is called "Celebration." And because it marks out a single day for praise and rejoicing, I thought it was appropriate as part of our congratulations to you on this special day for you and for Stanford.
Brilliant, this day -- a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors,
deft hands. And every prodigy of green --
whether it's ferns or lichens or needles
or impatient points of buds on spindly bushes --
greener than ever before.
And the way the conifers
hold new cones to the light for the blessing,
a festive right, and sing the oceanic chant the wind
transcribes for them!
A day that shines in the cold
like a first-prize brass band swinging along the street
of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
with the claims of reasonable