CONTENTION OF THE DAY – National Poetry Month

Having been alerted by Barbara that April is National Poetry Month, I thank Joe NS  for his extensive offering from T.S. Eliot.  In an e-mail, I criticized him for subjecting us to so much gray space, or functional equivalent thereof, and I recommended that he pare down the selection to an appropriate passage, but I now see that he was merely being public-spirited.   I would therefore like to offer a poetical selection of my own, as a response both to Mr. Eliot and to Mr. NS:

The Latest Freed Man

Tired of the old descriptions of the world,
The latest freed man rose at six and sat
On the edge of his bed. He said,
“I suppose there is
A doctrine to this landscape. Yet, having just
Escaped from the truth, the morning is color and mist,
Which is enough: the moment’s rain and sea,
The moment’s sun (the strong man vaguely seen),
Overtaking the doctrine of this landscape. Of him
And of his works, I am sure. He bathes in the mist
Like a man without a doctrine. The light he gives–
It is how he gives his light. It is how he shines,
Rising upon the doctors in their beds
And on their beds. . . .”
And so the freed man said.
It was how the sun came shining into his room:
To be without a description of to be,
For a moment on rising, at the edge of the bed, to be,
To have the ant of the self changed to an ox
With its organic boomings, to be changed
From a doctor into an ox, before standing up,
To know that the change and that the ox-like struggle
Come from the strength that is the strength of the sun,
Whether it comes directly or from the sun.
It was how he was free. It was how his freedom came.
It was being without description, being an ox.
It was the importance of the trees outdoors,
The freshness of the oak-leaves, not so much
That they were oak-leaves, as the way they looked.
It was everything being more real, himself
At the centre of reality, seeing it.
It was everything bulging and blazing and big in itself,
The blue of the rug, the portrait of Vidal,
Qui fait fi des joliesses banales, the chairs.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

10 comments on “CONTENTION OF THE DAY – National Poetry Month

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  1. Colin, I have not been able to check my mail all day. Every time I try to, I’m told that the server “dropped the connection . . . try again later.”

    I’ll edit it.

  2. Hadn’t you just asked me to? But anyway, when I tried to insert a page-break after editing, the window had collapsed to just one line. Repeated tries give the same result. Perhaps you could insert one for me after, say, the first paragraph in Roman type.

  3. A response to your response from William Carlos Williams:

    so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

  4. Back to Stevens

    Frogs Eat Butterflies. Snakes Eat Frogs. Hogs Eat Snakes. Men Eat Hogs

    It is true that the rivers went nosing like swine,
    Tugging at banks, until they seemed
    Bland belly-sounds in somnolent troughs,

    That the air was heavy with the breath of these swine,
    The breath of turgid summer, and
    Heavy with thunder’s rattapallax,

    That the man who erected this cabin, planted
    This field, and tended it awhile,
    Knew not the quirks of imagery,

    That the hours of his indolent, arid days,
    Grotesque with this nosing in banks,
    This somnolence and rattapallax,

    Seemed to suckle themselves on his arid being,
    As the swine-like rivers suckled themselves
    While they went seaward to the sea-mouths.

  5. The dead become flies.
    Which then become frogs,
    Food to the eyes,
    Of snakes and sleek hogs.
    Hogs become men,
    And over again.

  6. The last of the flyway hawks had been keeping me company this morning on the first leg of my hike through a nearby nature preserve. As I rounded a bend in the trail 4′ high stakes with pages of paper attatched appeared.

    I thought they must be nature facts for some elementary school field trip, but no, each page had written on it a poem. About 15 of them altogether.

    A few I thought good, a couple used “suck” liberally.

    Undoubtedly, an echo of National Poetry Month.

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