(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In “The Stricken Children,” the persona governing the poem—many attribute it as Levertov herself—recalls her return to a wishing well of her childhood. During that time, the well was a clear bubbling spring less than three feet across, with a bank of rocks protecting it from falling leaves. It was a tiny personal place which the speaking persona recalls as likely holding within it the wishes of many others from the past. People who came here did not throw money but, rather, searched themselves for the right small wish to throw into the well in the form of a pebble or rock. The immediate juxtaposition here is that visitors did not throw money, as wishes are not meant to be bought but rather hoped for with deepest interest and concern. This well was the place where, year after year, she returned to launch her journeys into the imagination. Like the spring, her childhood imagination could roam uncluttered, and the experiences she encountered nourished her.

When she returns as an adult, however, the wishing well has changed. She had hoped it would be familiar, merely older. Instead, it was marred, unfamiliar and sickly. The naïve beauty and appreciation she had for it in the past has been tarnished by a modern society who had filled it with its consumer excess, which she views, quite literally, as pollution. She wonders if the spring, so clogged, still flows, and if it was children who deposited the trash. If so, she muses, how damaged are these...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Block, Edward, ed. Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 50, no. 1 (Fall, 1997). Special Levertov issue.

Gwynne, R. S., ed. American Poets Since World War II. Vol. 5 in Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980.

Hollenberg, Donna. “’History as I Desired It’: Ekphrasis as Postmodern Witness in Denise Levertov’s Late Poetry.” Modernism/Modernity 10, no. 3 (September, 2003): 519-537.

Janssen, Ronald, ed. Twentieth Century Literature 38, no. 3 (Fall, 1992). Special Levertov issue.

Little, Anne Colclough, and Susie Paul, eds. Denise Levertov: New Perspectives. West Cornwall, Conn.: Locust Hill Press, 2000.

Long, Mark. “Affinities of Faith and Place in the Poetry of Denise Levertov.” ISLE 6, no. 2 (Summer, 1999): 31-40.

Rodgers, Audrey. Denise Levertov: The Poetry of Engagement. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1993.

Wagner, Linda W. Denise Levertov. New York: Twayne, 1967.

Wagner, Linda W., ed. Denise Levertov: In Her Own Province. New York: New Directions, 1979.

Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Critical Essays on Denise Levertov. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.