Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reality is the Beginning, Not the End

"Professor Eucalyptus said, "The search
for reality is as momentous as
The search for god." It is the philosopher's search

For an interior made exterior
And the poet's search for the same exterior made
Interior: breathless things broodingly abreath

With the inhalations of original cold
And of original earliness. Yet the sense
Of cold and earliness is a daily sense,

Not the predicate of bright origin.
Creation is not renewed by images
Of lone wanderers. To re-create, to use

The cold and earliness and bright origin
Is to search. Likewise to say of the evening star,
The most ancient light in the most ancient sky,

That it is wholly an inner light, that it shines
From the sleepy bosom of the real, re-creates,
Searches for a possible for its possibleness.

-Wallace Stevens
from "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven"


  1. I think you'll appreciate this anecdote. One of my favorite educational moments from high school was when my senior year English teacher introduced us to Stevens (I think it was with "The Emperor of Ice Cream"). Mr. Heywood told us how Stevens had been an insurance agent in Connecticut for decades while also being an acclaimed poet. When he died, a reporter visited his insurance office to get reactions from his colleagues, but they were all mystified, repeatedly saying in disbelief "Wally? A poet?"

    I think Wally is probably the poet I like the most but feel most out of my depth with too.

  2. That's a great anecdote. To complement it, I remember reading a profile of him a few years back about how he used to walk to work everyday with a small notepad and scratch his ideas down on paper. Once he got to work, he would have his secretary type up the poems. I don't know if this was a daily affair, but it's endearing either way.

    And yes, Stevens at time can be arcane for sure. But yes also, he is one the the great lions of twentieth century American poetry, and a great philosophical poet to boot. I find he hues to a central concept that informs all of his poetry, and I think it is captured best above, as well as in "Idea of Order at Key West", among select others.