Issue 7, The Secret

World Book Day & the value of escape

sana rao


Today is world book day, and it seems to me the perfect segue into something that I’ve been thinking about – the value of an escape. Since the lockdown a lot of the ways that people escape the daily humdrum, seem to have been curtailed. The world is still, and we are indoors living the daily groundhog day, and sometimes all we want to do is escape for a little moment. 

Henry Miller wrote in ‘Tropic of Cancer’, “I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it. We must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and the soul.” Books for me have always been ore – valuable minerals that someone has done the crucial work for extracting for us. Today I want to include a poem by Denise Levertov, called ‘The Secret’. Denise was an English-American poet who belonged to the ‘Black Mountain’ school of poets, writing open verse about subjects in a direct and accessible way. I’ve recorded a reading of the poem below for you to follow along.

The Secret

By Denise Levertov

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.

I like the idea that sometimes, we can look at books/poems and actually find the secret to life, unintended even by the author and forgotten as we move on, only to be rediscovered in other lines. What I love most are the last few lines, I can imagine the poet smiling to herself as she wrote these, “assuming there is / such a secret, yes, / for that / most of all.” 

Books and poetry allow us a temporary reprieve, sometimes our own mini enlightenments, often the relentless hope that we all need. To be able to get lost momentarily so as to not question anything at all -– maybe that is the secret for now. I hope this poem gave you the permission you need, to allow yourself to escape for a bit, as it did for me.

During the next few weeks of isolation, I will be posting some snippets more often here and on Found Poems’ Twitter & Instagram. Do follow along for frequent, short bursts of poetic inspiration!

Stay home, stay safe.


Subscribe to Found Poems