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(1. The Palm at the End of the Mind)

In parentheses because I may want more Stevens.

There, I read at least one book this winter. I think Chocorua to his Neighbor came across best this time around, though it may need some of his other poems as context. After the strange beginning sections Extracts from Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas struck me as the clearest introduction to later Stevens in general - among the poems anyway. The perplexed would be best off reading his Adagia. Some poems I love I found I'm still just burnt out on - Owl in the Sarcophagus, some of Ordinary Evening, various late lyrics.

I like when flurrying qualifications give way to dithyrambs, in Stevens - both look the same down the page from you, and how he puts words together doesn't change much either, so tone shifts occur through what he says, not how he's saying it. He repeats with variations when something is making him very happy or very sad, which creates a quickening effect, and that and the logic of what he's saying (if you're following that) is the only way you'll know he's even emotional, that this isn't just blather. This is exactly what annoys people coming to grips with him, but it's fantastic once you're with him because it gives the impression of what reasoning your way back to happiness is like. He's evoking that mood where you're frowning, you're trying to keep your emotions out of it while you figure something life and death to you out, avoiding premature elation and panic both, it's all too important to not be painstaking over. And when this impasse unblocks it's because one of the many paths you've been following over and over that all lead back to the tangle is suddenly going somewhere else, and you pore over every inch of it carefully, then start to pull on it, and say to yourself exactly what should appear around the corner of the table after each new tug. And it does, you're giving names to things before they appear for a change, the way you would if you finally knew what you were talking about. You speak to yourself the same way you did earlier when it was all hopeless because it's the same task. These poems aren't logical proofs, but they're just like what someone would talk like while discovering a proof of something changing everything. The champagne comes afterward - unceilinged excitement's where the poem's meant to take you, is what emanates from the whole poem as you glance back at it on finishing. But it's not baked into particular lines. No, I overstate - he has his secret passages of rapture. But they're not his signature.

This effect is especially neat because the change in a Stevens poem is a slight adjustment to interpretation, never a new exposure of facts. The particles are the same before and after, and so should the clauses be. But the astral and Shelleyan lights have changed the world.

Date: 2012-01-28 03:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is just perfect.

Date: 2012-01-28 06:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seems off to me now, but maybe not far. Leaves out maybe how how his poems are addresses, and what it means when he shifts among persons (3rd-style 3rd, 1st-style 3rd, 1st-style 2nd, 3rd-style 1st plural, 3rd-style 1st sing., rarest 1st-style 1st but even there representative of the rest of us, hence 1st-2nd-3rd all at once).


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