Yes, the month is almost half gone, and incredibly, 2011 almost completely over, and I suddenly realized I had not as yet had any Wallace Stevens up this year. Blasphemy! So I am going to make amends for that by having two of his shortest poems, one I think very accessible and the other, not so much, but both illumined in a prismatic fashion by his own particular radiant intellect and vision. They are from his first published work, Harmonium (1923.) The first, Disillusionment at Ten O'Clock is in his most whimsical voice, the second, The Snow Man, more elemental, and very appropriate to the season, which anyone who comes here much has by now figured out I hate.
You'll find them here, in the Off The Shelf January archive.
If you'd like to know more about my favorite and most admired poet, his bio at poets.org is here:
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To make room for the Stevens selection, last month's fine poem by Louise Bogan is moved to the front burner for a final perusal before going to rest in the Archives. Feel free to comment on either selection here, as comments are disabled off the main page.
Song For The Last Act
Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd's crook.
Beyond, a garden, There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.
Now that I have your face by heart, I look.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music's cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat's too swift. The notes shift in the dark.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.
Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.
Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.
by Louise Bogan
Image: The Hibiscus Tree, by Paul Gauguin, 1892, Oil on canvas
courtesy wikimedia commons