Wallace Stevens is a poet of comedy, and comedy relieves the distress of tragic history. Comedy reconciles the restless, Romantic imagination with the present and the real. When the world falls apart, one must cultivate one's garden, but also tell some comic stories over dinner. It is comedy, not alone but inseparable, that moves the infinite conversation on.
In early 2017 I wrote a series of posts - or let us call them essays - on Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Bureaucrat. I wrote it still aiming to revive a career in the bureaucracy, but perhaps gripped by the fates to know, as I know with high resolution tonight, that poetry and … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat
XIII It was evening all afternoon. It was snowing And it was going to snow. The blackbird sat In the cedar-limbs. Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird Our working lives are long, and yet our culture's celebration of youth is so strong: the energetic, the passionate, the believers and the ambitious displace … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat XIII: the long waits of winter
XII The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying. Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird I dwell in a land where the rivers are always moving, except when they dry out, when they would be called dry creek beds, not rivers. To imagine a place where a river is not moving … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat XII: the thaw, the flight
XI He rode over Connecticut In a glass coach. Once, a fear pierced him, In that he mistook The shadow of his equipage For blackbirds. Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird At first, the image of travel in a glass coach, magically through the harbour towns and rural havens of Connecticut, might … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat XI: people who live in glass coaches
IX When the blackbird flew out of sight, It marked the edge Of one of many circles Wallace Stevens, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird There is a strange book out there, which, if I ever develop these blogged posts into a more scholarly collection of essays, I suppose I will have to read, … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat IX: servants of Utopias.
"Psychoanalysts don't usually write essays; they tend to write lectures or papers or chapters, or what are called, perhaps optimistically, contributions." Adam Phillips "Coda: up to a point" in One Way or Another: New and Selected Essays If Phillips' invitation, masked in the form of a provocation, is true of psychoanalysis, how much more true … Continue reading 13 ways of looking at a bureaucrat
Image source: Gitksan woman Shaman and Chief, Kispiox, British Columbia, 1909, by George Thornton Emmons Collection no. 131 (University of Washington Libraries) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Why do we write poetry? In a world of inexhaustible archives, where we are overwhelmed with voices, why would we ply our own into the unending and infinite conversation? … Continue reading The book of my soul
Yesterday I visited the State Library of Victoria and there I read from the Collected Poetry and Prose of Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens is perhaps my most loved American poet, and certainly an influence on me - his diction, his mix of abstraction with the most remarkable particulars of the beautiful world, his romance of … Continue reading The nobility of poetry and a normal life
Wallace Stevens is a poet for lovers of beauty among ruins. For those of us in the second half of life he is of unique importance: diligent insurance executive, sometimes benighted husband, and much deferred, superbly deferred poet. He first read his poetry aloud to an audience, with some awkwardness in 1938 at the age … Continue reading Wallace Stevens’ mind of winter