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The Denise Levertov Award

Richard Rodriguez

Receives The 2017 Denise Levertov Award
May 25, 2017

“Books should confuse. Literature abhors the typical. Literature flows to the particular, the mundane, the greasiness of paper, the taste of warm beer, the smell of onion or quince. Auden has a line: ‘Ports have names they call the sea.’ Just so will literature describe life familiarly, regionally, in terms life is accustomed to use—high or low matters not. Literature cannot by this impulse betray the grandeur of its subject—there is only one subject: What it feels like to be alive. Nothing is irrelevant. Nothing is typical.”

—Richard Rodriguez, Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Hailed in the Washington Post as “one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America,” Richard Rodriguez in 1982 published Hunger of Memory, the autobiography of a “scholarship boy,” a widely read memoir that remains controversial today for its objections to affirmative action and bilingual education. His second book, Days of Obligation, an “intellectual travel book” on the moral landscapes of Mexico and the United States, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Brown, his book on racial mixing—the paradox of being brown in black-and-white America—was nominated for a National Book Critics award. His most recent book, Darling, explores the significance of desert landscapes in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and has been called “a rich tapestry, a persian carpet of a book.” His television essays, broadcast over 18 years on the PBS NewsHour, were awarded a Peabody award. Rodriguez has also worked on documentaries for the BBC and American television. He has been a contributor to magazines and newspapers all over the world.

A lifelong Catholic, he says he was first raised Mexican Catholic by his immigrant parents, then became Irish Catholic by virtue of his beloved Sisters of Mercy. Since the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s he has written openly and candidly about his homosexuality. When Charlie Rose asked if he considered himself a “gay writer,” Rodriguez replied that he considers himself “a morose writer.” In 1992, the federal government honored his work with the Frankel Prize (the award now renamed the National Humanities Medal). At present he is writing a book on why beauty matters.

Read Rodriguez’s essay “Transit Alexander: A Round,” excerpted from Darling, in Image issue 78.

Join us for the 14th Annual Denise Levertov Award with Richard Rodriguez.

Thursday, May 25, 2017
7:00 p.m.
415 Westlake
Seattle, Washington

In 2004, Image established the Denise Levertov Award to honor one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets.

The Levertov Award is given annually to an artist, musician, or writer whose work exemplifies a serious and sustained engagement with the Judeo-Christian tradition. The occasion is marked by a reading or performance by the award recipient in Seattle, co-sponsored by Seattle Pacific University’s English department and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.

DeniseLevertov_NewBioImageDenise Levertov, who spent her last years in Seattle, embraced the landscape and culture of the Pacific Northwest. Particularly in her later poetry, her identity as a Christian believer—a pilgrim whose faith was inextricably entwined with doubt—became another important facet of her work.

Read a personal essay by Murray Bodo about Denise Levertov’s life, work, and faith, originally published in Image issue 27.

Levertov Award Recipients

2016 | Dana Gioia

2015 | Bruce Cockburn

2014 | Scott Cairns

2013 | Luci Shaw

2012 | Patricia Hampl

2011 | Sam Phillips

2010 | Ron Hansen

2009 | Eugene Peterson

2008 | Thomas Lynch

2007 | Bret Lott

2006 | Kathleen Norris

2005 | Franz Wright

2004 | Madeline DeFrees

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