Jan. 13th, 2004

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Sudden high recommendation for Stevens' "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven"; it might just be my mood but this strikes me as his ultimate poem. My reservations about him have one by one proved unjustified, he's the poet of our birth century. Neruda's best work is nearer perfection but less important. Lorca, Rilke, Frost (even in "Directive" I've decided) etc. also only compete by going for a few accessible effects at a time. They're only better when we're worse. Which is often enough but first place is first place.

The poem's twenty pages long and requires a special kind of rereading: read each section through, alternately glacier slow and tapwater fast, until you get it. Stop if exhausted and resume another day; your mind will retain what it mastered last time. If you just can't figure out what he's talking about read a few of his essays or try "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"; this isn't the "Sunday Morning" Stevens, he worked out a complex and beautiful way of taking things throughout the 30s and 40s. I assure you every sentence makes sense.

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