Tuesday, April 4, 2017

christina's world


for Andrew Wyeth

brown hills of grass
where she slept

until the light
slides under
the surface of things,

she rises
hungry 
as a fish 
patrolling a lake's still surface,

there is someplace to be,

in a chair
at a table
with a place setting
of one plate, one fork,

one empty glass.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

remarks concerning Wallace Stevens



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What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one's meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality. " -- Wallace Stevens 
Logic by itself is over rated certainly, but unalloyed intuition is equally the subject of excess estimation, and is, in fact, a recipe for perceptual disaster.

Stevens realized this and made a body of work that provoked( successfully I think) thought and discussion about the interaction of imaginative and materialist approaches to appreciating and divining the corners and contours of the earth.
"All the great things have been denied and we live in an intricacy of new and local mythologies, political, economic, poetic, which are asserted with an ever-enlarging incoherence. " --Wallace Stevens 

Intuition and imagination are the things that give the world outside our bodies the shape and scope, and logic is that no-less human tendency to discover the order of raw sensory data and thus engineer ourselves usefully within it.

Each capacity, with all their attendant subdivisions and distinctions, cannot be divorced from the other, the mind cannot exist sanely sans the capacity to know when the imagination ends and uncompromisable reality begins. This is the basis of Steven's work, his central idea: all the great poems of Heaven and Hell have already been written, and what remained to be examined ,in the kind of intensified investigation that poetic language allows us, are poems of the Earth, not the least in this subject matter being the ceaseless contradictions and conflicts of humanity's desire to name the world he lives in and control it.
"To regard the imagination as metaphysics is to think of it as part of life, and to think of it as part of life is to realize the extent of artifice. We live in the mind. " --Wallace Stevens 

The world, the Earth, Nature itself, of course, can be imagined in any number of ways, and humanity itself may well come to believe his abstract definitions as implacable facts, but Nature goes on in its own set of processes that man is finally subject to.

However reshaped into man's image (or the image of the God man believes himself to resemble), nature pushes on, grows, expands, decays, renews, recycles, re-molds , destroys and creates anew, constantly churning, upsetting and moving through the convulsions and rough beauty that are the evidence of its life cycle.

All this renders the hoary substance of humanity's definition into so many fictions, supreme and less so, a poetry that nears special knowledge but which lacks the final gaze beyond the last, final veil. Our language is our method for beautiful guess work. Stevens gave a poetry that centered around this, to which his last message might well be that we have Poetics that cast itself in perpetual awe.
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What we draw from a poem like "Sunday Morning" is his penchant for addressing everyday occurrences in terms that approach the mythological. We can suss and hacked through the ornate textures of the writing and found the "common place" events and emotions that Stevens loved to broaden in scope with his righteously writ rhetoric. This, I think, is precisely the sort of reading he would hope a reader would embark on.

You've also given us a vivid time line with your deciphering of Stevens' lush tones, and have opened the door on his grand theme, that our world as we build it, live in it and contemplate its larger moral and aesthetic worth, is connected with a habit of mind, a quirk of human personality , that has never left us.

As with other modernists of his period--Eliot, and Pound, certainly-- Stevens viewed the material world as evidence of myth-creation, objects, art and philosophies that are extraordinary less for what they reveal about fixed and permanent virtues, but more the poetic ingenuity in the language created to make their case. Here, with a simple Sunday coffee by the sea and an incidental twinge of guilt, we are linked to legends and sins of cultures worshiping allegedly alien gods.

Our reality , composed as it is with particularized aesthetic rigor and moral complexity, is no less a supreme fiction. Behind the fictions and the dimensions of the respective paradigms they allows us to live within, lies the differentiated mass of humanity, constantly creating the grand poetry that is the essence and unseen breath of their lives.
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I don't know why there's all this defensiveness about whether Stevens is "obscure" or not. Erudition is generally a description of someone who is versed in many subjects that are outside thhe scope of the everyday; such knowledge is by nature obscure.This needn't be a veiled insult, though, because in the hands of a supreme poet, it's not a bad quality at all.

The real issue comes down to readability , I think.It's the crucial distinction here between what Stevens gives the world with his splendid blend of intellectual rigor and musicality, and what this week's poet tries to slip under the door.

Steven's verses are with abstract ideas, subjects by their nature obscure and requiring rarefied terms and jargon to describe dimensions that don't readily lend themselves to streaming, concise captions. Stevens' ideas are smoothly parlayed to a larger world by way of addressing his emerging ideas of phenomenal existence through the lens of the world whose intransigent knowability he interrogates.

His is a world that retains its mystery and wonder and which is still capable of creating actual, unsentimental awe in the curious and alert mind. "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", "The Blue Guitar", "Emperor of Ice Cream" have that rare musical curve and sweep that set up paradoxes and then resolves them in ways that make their perception as much a part of natural process as anything else a species creature like man might.

Friday, January 6, 2017

SAD SONG


You think of another city
That comes between this gas station
And the “x” on the map we’re driving towards,
Sounds something like
Goat cheese,
you joke,
A smile
For every mile that went
Silent behind us,
Goleta, I tell you,
And tap beats on the
Steering wheel,
Billy Joel is getting out of Allentown
With his piano and acoustic guitar,
Sing me a song, I ask,
Sing me something
That will make me sad
And glad to be breathing,
You drop the magazine to your lap,
Smile, as you do,
When mystery discovers the
Parts of your psyche
No one could find
On a map
Of all the bumps on your head,
You place the map,
Folded in three wrong directions,
In the glove compartment,
You stare to the highway,
Santa Barbara is nearing,
A Sad song, you repeat,
And croon, husky and low,
“Happy Birthday to you..."