Feb 14, 2011

Concluding on Wallace Stevens

Nomad Exquisite by Wallace Stevens : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry

"Nomad Exquisite" made me think about Florida and some other, larger ideas in ways I never have. Whether or not it or other Stevens poems have caught your eye—and mind and heart—you might check out Wikipedia’s info on this Hartford lawyer of a poet. Much of the info was new to me. Maybe most startling was the fact that Stevens’ first book of poetry, Harmonium, sold only one hundred copies.


Rightly or wrongly, I like to think of great poets like Stevens, or Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins, laboring in near-anonymity. And they kept on working because they were at some level aware they were creating some precious, mysterious thing—gems, maybe, but less confined than stones to the material world. It was something much more valuable than their own names on book covers. And that was enough.

If that’s not the way it was, it should have been. Thousands of wannabes and a handful of geniuses are silently making the same claim for themselves—anonymous devotion, brilliant minds, receptive spirits. There’s the sadness and the mystery and the triumph. At his greatest moments, all any maker knows is that he’s alone, trying to shape something into perfection, knowing he won’t, and quietly going on with it anyway, devoted to the making, envisioning the end product, laboring and hoping for something worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

You, my professor, know that in early English Lit, most pieces were written by Anon. Then, as it should be now I think, in the belief that it was the work not the worker who was of prime importance.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I have enjoyed this series, Banjo! I must go back and re-read #2 to see how you leaped here.
Funny, Steven's biography makes up for disliking one of his poem's. He is suddenly human!

You write as a writer (does this make sense?). A lot of gems in your thoughts. Interesting (to follow on to AH's comment) how one 'Anon' poet can impact you more than everything Emily Dickinson wrote... or how one essay by you is the haunting piece of the day.

Banjo52 said...

AH, I didn't know that was the rationale behind the frequent use of "Anon." I really, really like it. Of course, when I'm famous, you damn well better use my name!

Brenda, you are again too kind. Keep it up.

But seriously, I often find that knowing a bit of the author's life is more moving than knowing her/his work. That's one more reason to insist on distinguishing between the author and the work. Dare I say it, one more reason to tend toward the New Criticism.

As for #2 and this post, I'd say (for now anyway) that I hear Stevens being extraordinarily humble, a true supplicant, in wonder, begging nature to give him some of that color and vigor. I find that very appealing, and I find sociopathic politicians and exploitative biz types the polar opposite of that. They seem not to notice a world outside themselves--or at least not to give a damn about it.

It gits me riled up, I tell you.

As always, thanks, you two.

Lovers' Lane