A “Chosen” P[o]et among [Hu]mans: Denise Levertov’s Pig Dreams Read as a Matrifocal Allegory

José Rodríguez HerreraUniversity of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring 2020), 85-104

This article argues that, far from being a series of playful poems drawing from pastorals and animal fables for children, Denise Levertov’s Pig Dreams (1981) can be interpreted as a matrifocal allegory. Pig Dreams follows the life of Sylvia the pig as she is adopted by humans as a pet and becomes a mother. Sylvia’s life events can be read as representing the author’s sense of herself as a woman poet within a masculinist poetic milieu (in images of orphanhood and alienation), her impending fear of a nuclear holocaust (Sylvia’s sense of slaughter), and, finally, the need for spiritual regeneration amidst the drama and chaos of the nuclear era (Sylvia’s invocations to female goddesses for protection). As Sylvia grows more mature, both physically and spiritually, she gradually transcends her confinement and moves toward new cosmologies and a more cosmic understanding of her identity. Pig Dreams signals a turning point in Levertov’s career marked by a need for matrifocal spirituality and growing sense of her destiny as a woman poet.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]