September 8, 2009

As if blood newly came

Been trying to read up about Wallace Stevens a lot lately. Here's some beautiful lines from "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" celebrating poetry.
The poem refreshes life so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea . . . It satisfies
Belief in an immaculate beginning

And sends us, winged by an unconscious will,
To an immaculate end. We move between these points:
From that ever-early candor to its late plural

And the candor of them is the strong exhilaration
Of what we feel from what we think, of thought
Beating in the heart, as if blood newly came,

An elixir, an excitation, a pure power.
The poem, through candor, brings back a power again
That gives a candid kind to everything.
More excerpts from the poem can be read here. Or you can read the entire poem and lots more from Wallace Stevens by buying:


Do read more... for as Wallace Stevens said in his poem, Of Modern Poetry: "It must be the finding of a satisfaction."

Also for your reading pleasure these two links from the NYT archives:
Talk With Mr. Stevens (1954) - A New York Times interview with Wallace Stevens. 
Wallace Stevens, Noted Poet, Dead (1955) - The New York Times obituary for Stevens.
And to come full circle, the 1931 review of Stevens' first book of poems, Harmonium, which included the poem "Notes towards a Supreme Fiction."
"Harmonium" (1931)
"From one end of the book to the other there is not an idea that can vitally affect the mind, there is not a word that can arouse emotion. The volume is a glittering edifice of icicles. Brilliant as the moon, the book is equally dead."
The reviewer, Percy Hutchinson, can eat crow. Harmonium is celebrated as one of the great poetry books of the 20th century [1] and Stevens is celebrated (and not just by Harold Bloom) as one of the top 5 leading American poets of the 20th century alongside T. S. Eliot, William Carlos William, and ( controversially) Ezra Pound. (I say controversially because though he is credited with fostering modern poetry, his own contributions to poetry, Cantos notwithstanding, I am finding are subject to a lot of discussion and debate. Be that as it may, he deserves mention amongst the greats of modern poetry.)

[1] Read this blog post by Edward Bryne, editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review, where he compiles a list of 100 books of poetry "that might present appropriate coverage of poets whose contributions represent a collective sampling of twentieth century American poetry." Also, the follow-up post with replies from some readers of his blog.

“After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption." - Wallace Stevens, in his book Opus Posthumous.

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