"Living" Laura Wayte Sings Denise Levertov

by Nicole Portley

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"'Living' Laura Wayte Sings Denise Levertov" is a modern take on the 19th century art song tradition and a celebration of one of America's foremost 20th century poets. It is also the collaborative effort of Portland-based composer Nicole Portley, Eugene-based soprano Laura Wayte, and seven Oregonian string players, including members of the Oregon and Eugene symphonies. The disc features a cycle of ten songs composed upon the poetry of Denise Levertov (1923–1997), who lived in Washington and Northern California and wrote a body of work that evokes the vivid natural beauty of the American far west and raw emotional sensibility. In writing music to go with Levertov’s words, delivering the vocal lines, and performing the string trio accompaniment, our team strove for connectivity with a fellow Pacific Northwesterner and fellow artist, passed but not forgotten.


released May 31, 2015

Poetry for tracks 1–10 written by Denise Levertov, used with permission of New Directions Publishing
Music of all tracks composed by Nicole Portley
All tracks produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Lance Miller
Artwork and design by Helen Liu

Performers on tracks 1–10:
Laura Wayte – soprano
Erin Furbee – violin
Leah Ilem – viola
Heather Blackburn – cello

Performers on tracks 11–13:
Delgani Quartet
Wyatt True – violin
Ting-Yu Jannie Wei – violin
Morgan O’Shaughnessey – viola
Kelly Quesada – cello

© ℗ 2015, Nicole Portley, ASCAP
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.


all rights reserved



Nikki n' The Pathos Portland, Oregon

Independent rock and classical music written by Nicole Portley in Portland, Oregon

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Track Name: The Quest
The Quest

High, hollowed in green above
the rocks of reason
lies the crater lake
whose ice the dreamer breaks
to find a summer season.

'He will plunge like a plummet down
far into hungry tides'
they cry, but as the sea climbs to a lunar magnet
so the dreamer pursues
the lake where love resides.
Track Name: The Ache of Marriage
The Ache of Marriage

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it.
Track Name: Joy

i can lay down that history
i can lay down my glasses
i can lay down the imaginary lists
of what to forget and what must be
done. i can shake the sun out of my eyes
and lay everything down
on the hot sand, and cross
to the whispering threshold and walk
right into the clear sea
Track Name: Hymn to Eros
Hymn to Eros

O Eros, silently smiling one, hear me
Let the shadow of thy wings
brush me.
Let thy presence
enfold me, as if darkness
were swandown.
Let me see that darkness lamp in hand,
this country become the other country
sacred to desire.

Drowsy god,
slow the wheels of my thought
so that I listen only
to the snowfall hush
of thy circling.
Close my beloved with me
in the smoke ring of thy power,
that we may be, each to the other
figures of flame,
figures of smoke,
figures of flesh
newly seen in the dusk.
Track Name: Celebration

Brilliant, this day – a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadow cut by sharpest scissors,
deft hands. And every prodigy of green –
whether it's ferns or lichens or needles
or impatient points of buds on spindly bushes –
greener than ever before. And the way the conifers hold new cones to the light for the blessing, a festive rite, and sing the oceanic chant the wind transcribes for them!
A day that shines in the cold
like a first-prize brass band swinging along
the street
of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
with the claims of reasonable gloom.
Track Name: Divorcing

One garland
of flowers, leaves, thorns
was twined round our two necks.
Drawn tight, it could choke us,
yet we loved its scratchy grace,
our fragrant yoke.

We were Siamese twins.
Our blood's not sure
if it can circulate,
now we are cut apart.
Something in each of us is waiting
to see if we can survive,
Track Name: Variation on a Theme by Rilke
Variation on a Theme by Rilke

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic--or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
Track Name: Losing Track
Losing Track

Long after you have swung back
away from me
I think you are still with me:

you come in close to the shore
on the tide
and nudge me awake the way

a boat adrift nudges the pier:
am I a pier
half-in half-out of the water?

and in the pleasure of that communion
I lose track,
the moon I watch goes down, the

tide swings you away before
I know I'm
alone again long since

mud sucking at gray and black
timbers of me,
a light growth of green dreams dying.
Track Name: The Thread
The Thread

Something is very gently,
invisibly, silently,
pulling at me-a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven't tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.
Track Name: Living

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

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