Wallace Stevens

June 16, 2006


American Modernist poet
Held a successful career in law
Main output came at a fairly advanced age
Concerned with interplay between imagination and reality and the relation between consciousness and the world; believes god is a human creation; uses musical free verse and sensuous, significant imagery recalls Symbolism
Gave few readings, associated with few poets; Strong dislike for T.S. Eliot’s poetry
A Lucretian poet, celebrating a cosmos centered upon inevitable entropy and death

“After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption”


Complacencies of the peignoir, and late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, / And the green freedom of a cockatoo / Upon a rug mingle to dissipate / The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. 

Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be / The blood of paradise?  And shall the earth / Seem all of paradise that we shall know? / The sky will be much friendlier then than now, / A part of labor and a part of pain, / And next in glory to enduring love, / Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, / Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams / And our desires. Although she strews the leaves / Of sure obliteration on our paths, / The path sick sorrow took, the many paths / Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love / Whispered a little out of tenderness…

-Sunday Morning

Beauty is momentary in the mind- / The fitful tracing of a portal; / But in the flesh it is immortal. / The body dies; the body’s beauty lives. / So evenings die, in their green going, / A wave, interminably flowing.

-Peter Quince at the Clavier

Call the roller of big cigars, / The muscular one, and bid him whip / In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. / Let the wenches dawdle in such dress / As they are used to wear, and let the boys / Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers. / Let be be finale of seem. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal, / Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet / On which she embroidered fantails once / And spread it so as to cover her face. / If her horny feet protrude, they come / To show how cold she is, and dumb. / Let the lamp affix its beam. / The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

-The Emperor of Ice-Cream (in whole)

It was her voice that made / The sky acutest at its vanishing. / She measured to the hour its solitude. / She was the single artificer of the world / In which she sang.  And when she sang, the sea, / Whatever self it had, became the self / That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, / As we beheld her striding there alone, / Knew that there never was a world for her / Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

-The Idea of Order at Key West
See Poetry Speaks

Between the thing as idea and / The idea as thing. She is half who made her. / This is the final Projection, C.
The arrangement contains the desire of / The artist. But one confides in what has no / Concealed creator. One walks easily
The Unpainted shore, accepts the world / As anything but sculpture. Good-bye / Mrs. Pappadopoulos, and thanks.

-So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch
See Poetry Speaks

Tell X that speech is not dirty silence / Clarified. It is silence made still dirtier. / It is more than an imitation for the ear.
He lacks this venerable complication. / His poems are not of the second part of life. / They do not make the visible a little hard.
To see…

-The Creation of Sound

Throw away the lights, the definitions, / And say of what you see in the dark
That it is this or that it is that, / But do not use the rotted names.
How should you walk in that space and know  / Nothing of the madness of space,
Nothing of its jocular procreations? / Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand
Between you and the shapes you take / When the crust of shape has been destroyed.
You as you are? You are yourself. / The blue guitar surprises you.

-The Man with the Blue Guitar (in whole)


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