Denise Levertov – The Secret

“I love them for finding what I can’t find…”

– Denise Levertov

“What a child needs, what we all need, is to find some other people who have imagined life along lines that make sense to us,” wrote Ursula le Guin in her inspiring treatise on the importance of imagination and literature to young readers. First moments of insight through reading are among the most magical, an experience that prompted Denise Levertov to this poem, The Secret. Levertov writes about the experience of unintentionally authoring a line that reveals something profound to a reader, something which remains a mystery to the author herself. She also acknowledges that the forgetting of this revelation is just as important as its discovery, as it allows us to experience the joy of new insight, and to hold the faith that there is meaning to be discovered again and again over the course of our lives.

The Secret

Two girls discover   
the secret of life   
in a sudden line of   

I who don’t know the   
secret wrote   
the line. They   
told me

(through a third person)   
they had found it
but not what it was   
not even

what line it was. No doubt   
by now, more than a week   
later, they have forgotten   
the secret,

the line, the name of   
the poem. I love them   
for finding what   
I can’t find,

and for loving me   
for the line I wrote,   
and for forgetting it   
so that

a thousand times, till death   
finds them, they may   
discover it again, in other   

in other   
happenings. And for   
wanting to know it,   

assuming there is   
such a secret, yes,   
for that   
most of all.

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
From: O Taste and See: New Poems

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