Sunday, September 5, 2010

The poetry of Wallace Stevens

Lately, I've been reading the poetry of Wallace Stevens. I find his poetry of ideas powerful and transcendent. Here are a couple of his poems on the subject of poetry:


Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
the conscience is converted into palms,
like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
the opposing law and make a peristyle,
and from the peristyle project a masque
beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
is equally converted into palms,
squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
madame, we are where we began. Allow,
therefore, that in the planetary scene
your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
proud of such novelties of the sublime,
such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
may, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
a jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.


That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart.
It is to have or nothing

It is a thing to have,
a lion, an ox in his breast,
to feel it breathing there.

Corazon, stout dog,
Young ox, bow-leged bear,
He tastes its blood, not spit.

He is like a man
In the body of a violent beast.
Its muscles are his own...

The lion sleeps in the sun
Its nose is on its paws.
It can kill a man.