Study Guide

What Were They Like? What's Up With the Title?

By Denise Levertov

What's Up With the Title?

The title gives us a clue not only about the subject matter of the poem, but also about the style. See, it's written like a question and answer session (sort of like an interview), though we never get to know who is asking and who is answering them.

In the first stanza, the speaker asks questions about a people who are no longer living. He inquires about their lifestyles, their history, and their traditions (though he doesn't pause long enough for an answer). In the second stanza, a second speaker answers. He (or she) says that the people have no more lifestyles, history, or traditions; they've all been wiped away by bombs.

Ultimately, the question the title poses is never answered because everything that made the people who they were has been lost. There's just no way to tell what they were like. All we have left is an inquisitive male speaker—who wonders about a people who have essentially gone extinct—and one who has more knowledge about the depressing facts of their disappearance.

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