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"I am Essex born.." the story of Denise Levertov
This is my favourite photo of the poet Denise Levertov. I’m not sure when it was taken, sometime in the mid sixties judging by the spectacles and the floral top. Levertov would have been in her mid forties but she was always youthful looking as can be seen from the other photo below taken at the Living Theatre in 1959 when she was in her mid thirties and already an established poet and academic but looks like a girl in her twenties.
Although she was born in 1924 on the outskirts of London at number 5 Mansfield Road in the staunchly suburban Ilford her background, for the time, was improbably exotic. Her father, Paul was born Feivel Levertov, a Russian Hassidic Jew in the town of Orsha, Belarus. Beatrice Levertov nee Spooner-Jones was a Welsh Congregationalist who had met her husband in Constantinople. Levertov had a sister, Olga, who was five years older than her. The two sisters were educated at home in an intensely intellectual household, their mother read Tolstoy and Conrad out loud over the dinner table, and Denise harboured ambitions to be a writer from an early age. When she was 12 she wrote to TS Eliot enclosing some of her poems and the poet wrote her a two page letter of encouragement in response. During the blitz she worked in London as a nurse and just after the war she met and married the American writer Mitchell Goodman and moved with him to the United States where she lived in New York and then, when the couple separated, in Seattle. She published over 30 books, mainly of poetry and during the sixties became heavily politicised by the Vietnam War and was a leading activist in the anti-war protest movement. Despite her anti-authoritarian stance she held teaching posts at various universities including MIT, Tufts and Stanford. After a long illness she died of lymphoma in 1997.
Levertov had an exiles romantic attachment to her family background and the place she grew up in. This attachment was expressed most eloquently in “Tesserae” the book of memoirs she published shortly before her death and in her poems “A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England” and her elegy for her dead sister “Olga poems”. Her father came from a distinguished family of Hassidim, one of his ancestors was the miracle working Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Rav of White Russia, who as a child was so precociously clever that at 12 his teachers sent him home from the yeshiva with instructions not to bother returning as there was nothing else they could teach him and at his Bar-mitzvah address spoke with such passion, prescience and learning that the community immediately pronounced him an 'Iluy', a prodigy of learning. Feivel Levertov was also an outstanding scholar and in “Tesserae” Levertov recounts an episode when her 8 or 9 year old father picked up a scrap of paper in the snow “about a boy like himself who – it said – was found in the Temple expounding the scriptures to the old, reverent, important rabbis!” Entranced he took the scrap of paper home to show his father who was furious, tore the paper to shreds and threw it in the fire. It was, of course, the story of Jesus and Fevel’s fascination was prophetic because a few years later, as a student in Germany at a Rabbinical Seminary , he came across a copy of the Gospels translated into Hebrew. These he read clandestinely and as he read he became stirred by a ‘profound and shaking new conviction’ that this man, this renegade Palestinian Jew who had died during the height of the Roman empire, really was the Messiah. Paul Levertov became a JBJ, a Jewish Believer in Jesus, had himself baptised as Paul Philip and for fifteen years became a professional missionary visiting Jewish communities in places as far apart as Hungary, Bosnia, Egypt and Palestine. In 1910 took a post as Evangelist in Constantinople offered to him by the United Free Church of Scotland where he met Beatrice Spooner-Jones, a teacher at the Scottish mission school. Beatrice was an orphan from Holywell who had been brought up in the guardianship of her uncle, a Congregationalist minister who consented, when she 19, to her going abroad. Her first hope had been to go to Paris but her horrified uncle rejected the sestion out of hand, the French capital being a totally unsuitable place for an unattached young woman. He agreed to the more dubious proposition of Constantinople because it was to teach at a church school. So the naive young Welsh woman who spoke no language other than English and had only previously set foot outside of Wales to visit Liverpool and Chester set off unaccompanied to travel across Europe and take up residence in the Sublime Porte.
The couple were married in 1911 and lived in Warsaw until the outbreak of the first World War when, as a Russian citizen, Paul was placed under house arrest and was technically a prisoner of war for the duration of hostilities. After the war Beatrice persuaded Paul to leave battle ravaged Europe and return with her to Wales wher
From Wikipedia -
The quince, or Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia and native to warm-temperate southwest Asia in the Caucasus region. It is a small deciduous tree, growing 5–8 m tall and 4–6 m wide, related to apples and pears, and like them has a pome fruit, which is bright golden yellow when mature, pear-shaped, 7–12 cm long and 6–9 cm broad.
The immature fruit is green with dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes colour to yellow with hard, strongly perfumed flesh. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, 6–11 cm long, with an entire margin and densely pubescent with fine white hairs. The flowers, produced in spring after the leaves, are white or pink, 5 cm across, with five petals.
Quince is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Bucculatrix bechsteinella, Bucculatrix pomifoliella, Coleophora cerasivorella, Coleophora malivorella, Green Pug and Winter Moth.
Turkey ranks first in world quince production by producing a quarter of the total world production.
List of the cultivars
Bereczcki, Champion, Cooke’s Jumbo (Syn. Jumbo), Dwarf Orange, Gamboa, Le Bourgeaut, Lescovacz, Ludovic, Maliformis, Meeches Prolific, Morava, Orange (Syn. Apple quince), Perfume, Pineapple, Portugal (Syn. Lusitanica), Siebosa, Smyrna, Van Deman, Vrajna (Syn. Bereczcki).
The modern name originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, via Old French cooin from Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum, ultimately from Greek ???????? ?????, kydonion melon "Kydonian apple". The quince tree is native to Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Pakistan and was introduced to Syria, Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Bulgaria.
Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to "apple", such as the fruit in Song of Solomon, may have been to a quince. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant" (Roman Questions 3.65). It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite. It was for a golden quince that Atalanta paused in her race. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks. Pliny the Elder mentioned the one variety, Mulvian quince, that could be eaten raw. Columella mentioned three, one of which, the "golden apple" that may have been the paradisal fruit in the Garden of the Hesperides, has donated its name in Italian to the tomato, pomodoro.
Quince is resistant to frost and requires a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly. The tree is self fertile, however yield can benefit from cross fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw in warmer climates, but should be picked before the first frosts.
Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless 'bletted' (softened by frost and subsequent decay). They are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the applesauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term "marmalade", originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit. The fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine.
In Iran and other parts of the Middle East, the dried pits of the fruit are used to treat sore throat and to relieve cough. The pits are soaked in water; the viscous product is then drunk like cough medicine. It is commonly used for children, as it is alcohol free and 100% natural. A variety of quince which is grown in the Middle East, does not require cooking and is often eaten raw.
In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen. They are not grown in large amounts; typically one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard with several apples and other fruit trees.
Charlemagne directed that quinces be planted in well-stocked orchards. Quinces are mentioned for the first time in an English text in the later 13th century, though cultivation in England is not very successful due to inadequate summer heat to ripen the fruit fully. Instead Chaenomeles bushes are grown - their
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