Notes and Quotes – Modern American Poetry

– Notes and Quotes –


Modern American Poetry

Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams


William Carlos Williams – Objective Ideal, Distinctive Traditions

– “The poet thinks with the poem.”



Hart Crane – Visionary Ideal, Distinctive Traditions, ecstatic


“As silent as a mirror is believed”


conquer space


“It is to be learned-”


“Spends out himself again”


the wilderness of language, moving outward

“Twice and twice” eidolon, double

comprehension as inattention


“Unwhispering mirror” Loud? Soft?


“Drop by caustic drop…some constant…”

sometimes constant, sometimes also constant


“Relentless caper for all those who step”

drive, simpleminded



Sunday Morning Apples

“The leaves will fall again sometime and fall”

sequence too numerous


“The fleece of nature with those purposes”

faith makes art true


“That are your rich and faithful strength of line”



“In that ripe nude with head…reared”

image obliterates itself

disappears into white space

Crane disappears from poem


“From whiteness that cries defiance to the snow”

coming out of stillness from whiteness


“A boy runs with a dog before the sun straddling”

“I have seen the apples…

conquer SPACE

… there that toss you secrets,-”

closed system, like prayer


“…seasonable madness” private meaning?



“explosion-” purpose of life

no sum/totality, but ecstasy


ends with exclamation (!), clear, transparent




“We make our meek adjustments”

series of intersections

collage of high/low/pop/elite cultures, of idioms

high minded IRONY

Crane – not ironic, looking for sincere and credible, w/o irony

making a SPACE for emotions


“Contented with such random constellations”

the poem dances


“A famished kitten on the step…”


“Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb”

idiomatic and colloquial language


“The game enforces smirks; but we have seen”

Crane says it because he’s seen it


“Have you heard a kitten in the WILDERNESS…”

mixing cultures, restores WILDNESS to poem, post civilization


Two wildnesses – one which knows, one which doesn’t know

passionate, sophisticated, undoing the irony, impenetrable, silly

finding way to the next WILDERNESS

candor – willingness to embarrass oneself





“Where the ceder leaf divides the sky”

Poem opens a space

a sense of CITE


“I was promised an improved infancy”

new birth


“My memory left in a ravine, -”


“It is not long, it is not long;”



“What fountains did I hear? What icy speeches?”

Poem leaves poem

a vehicle transported to NEW and WILDERNESS



Wine Menagerie

“Invariably when wine redeems the sight”

WILDNESS with vision

Poem – defenseless, finds new place/wilderness/vision

redemption comes with wildness

Poem – sight, place, local, meaning and location


Line 29 – “New thresholds, new anatomies! Wine talons”

expansion of the mind, affiliated


“Rise from the dates and crumbs. And walk away,”

new combinations/arrangements


“- And folds your exile on your back again;

Petrushka’s valentine pivots on its pin”

banished to the new





“Above the fresh ruffles of the surf”

kids playing on a beach

a threshold to be transgressed

to go, to depart, to voyage


“O brilliant kids, frisk with your dog,”

“…; but there is a line

You must not cross…”

to love is to transgress


“The bottom of the sea is cruel”

saved by coherence of last line




“Mark how her turning shoulders wind the hours…”


“wink” “penniless”

ambiguities abolished by…

“…sleep, death, desire”

Poem – made from the other side of death


voyage – not about arriving

love – not a closed system


“Is answered in the vortex of our grave”

die into this love


“The seal’s wide spindrift gaze toward paradise”

Findrinny! – new nature

“no earthly shore”




“Infinity consanguinity it bears – “

biology of new nature

love it or be-lieve it


“Light wrestling there incessantly with light,…”

“…of song”

new creation


“Permit me voyage, love, into your hands…”

Poems – hard to find “beloved”




“Whose counted smile of hours and days, suppose…”




“’Nothing like this in the world,’ you say”

lover addressing loved while sleeping

love/experience – isolating

Poem – not read, but overheard

sentenced to prose




“- Thy derelict and blinded guest”

love made me not a two, but none

self exile/banishment

in habit of conventions, not reality



“The imagined Word, it is, that holds”

beloved/loved – something

words/meaning – same thing


“Whose accent no farewell can know”

absolute modernism – to have experience, one must have a new nature



The Brooklyn Bridge

“How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest”

shameless & delighted in combinging languages

with plenty of SPACE, there’s no need for eternity

motion flows, fast movement

bridge connects without bring specific placement

condensing not SPACE, but TIME


Bridge – a threshold

becoming free, the bridge stays, a slave to the city

cables appear harpish

narrow portion of ocean


freedom confines, liberty is unconfines


“As obscure as the heaven of Jews,…

Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show…”

a reprieve from eternity


“The city’s fiery parcels all undone”

“Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ of dreaming sod,”

salvation via immensity, outward, not upward




The River

“Stick your patent name on a sign board”

velocity of stanza makes meaning

blasting by while sitting in train or car

SPEED of TIME annihilating SPACE

getting from place to place w/o catching the entirety of the message


Crane goes faster to recover TIME & SPACE


“20th Century Limited” – a train


Then the language begins to slow down


Three men walking (wise men), slowly, down a road


TIME – a machine, the train, waring with the sanctity of SPACE


The human is left in SPACE


Human SPACE vs. Machine TIME


“Time’s rendings, time’s blendings…”


“…spreading dry shingles of a beard…”

cacophony of leisure

bums, hobos remembering places

the last holdout for SPACE

in culture held hostage to time


language (spatial reality) behaves differently in SPACE


Crane – accepts in all

occupies SPACE rather than crossing it

aware of Modern and Post-Modern


“Yet they touch something…”

“They know a body…”

a continent


“Wide rain”… “As I have trod then numerous midnights too…”

open, expansive, hard to say quickly

slowing the reader.

Reclaiming SPACE from TIME


“And past the circuit…TIME like a serpent…SPACE is the wing…”

in the garden


“Yes, turn again and sniff…” “…fee the river timelessly…”

SPACE talking


The river consumes, not left behind


“Down, down…”

A pioneer a step ahead of TIME

seeking SPACE, walking out of history.

Notion of frontier


“…Jordan’s brow”

frontiers are no longer frontiers when conquered.


The bridge – expelling immensity, lost leisure

condemned to the restlessness of history


“the river, spreading, flows…”

no single direction of travel


“..father’s father…”

freedom to take a new role


SPACE, WILDERNESS, set free from history


“No embrace opens but the stinging sea…

river lifts itself from its bed”


“…Hosannas silently below”

the river will not be kept on schedule



The Tunnel

Driving SPACE underground!



geometry of SPACE


“Times Square…Columbus Circle”

“You’ll find the Garden in the 3rd act dead”

geometry replaced garden


“Then let you…for what time slays”

verticality of the city slays horizontal of the garden


“A brisk ten blocks…the quickest promise home”

getting home faster with less memory


“Be minimum…press the coin into the slot”

dehumanization of public transportation


“and so of cities..”

artificial rivers


“Overtone of motion…also underground”

hellish closure of the repetition of sound


“Floral Park Flatbush”

no floral/park/bush


“It used to be…is this fourteenth?”

the poem is speeding up again


“Swing on it…”

beauty’s desperation in time


“…anyhow swing”

raising problems and giving no solutions


“The phonograph…” “and love”

love – imperative verb, burnt match in urinal


“and why do I…O evermore…Poe”

not nevermore


“for graves and manor…Chambers Street”


up from under and out on the bridge


“The intent escalator…”

“Genoese” – Columbus’s homeland


“…tomorrow, and to be…”


from tunnel to bridge, Crane awakes from a nightmare of TIME to a garden of SPACE


Poem – trying to find SPACE & WILDERNESS


Key West

O Carib

The Mango Tree




Wallace Stevens – Symbolist Aesthetic, Hartford Insurance, Distinctive Traditions


Sunday Morning

No unanimously or singularity, no consistencies

Take the whole trip

Thesis statements are never true

Modernism – more than one thing; begins with Victorianism, social Darwinism.

The title “Sunday Morning” creates expectations.



I – Starts – “Complacencies of the peignoir” (a Manet painting)

A space and time emptied of its usual meaning.

How shall we fill this space?

Where to lay devotion?

To the beautiful, hoping it’s not décor.

Not-god, resurrection.

Full of sensuality.

Void of spirit.

“The green freedom of a cockatoo.”

Using the imagination to fill the void.

-To compensate, sufficient to human needs.

-Opening stanza, meant to be a void.

How reconcile? How intertwine sense & spirit.

The poem is dialectical, talking to itself.

Poetry IS thought, not the product of thought.

Stevens brings from Victorian to contemporary, stanza by stanza.

“Comforts of the sun.” (Son, of god, on Sunday)

Sensual realities, sometimes more eloquent.

Where do I put my faith?

“Destined for her soul.”

Modernism doesn’t go away.

Stevens gives in to his nostalgia.

-Difference, uncertainty, argument with itself.

Yearning for transcendence.


VI – Conflict



The only permanence if impermanence.

Modernism – Looking for the vocabulary.

“My vocabulary did this to me.”

The poem knows that it has not received a vocabulary, searching for words.

Language describes the past, we drag the language into the future.

The poem recoils from itself, the truth, and does not conceal.

Unfinished, uncertain.

Bought & paid for our misery with our mortality.

“Heavenly fellowship of me that perish.”



Immortal, because we die.

Modernism – A new vocabulary, chaos is inhabitable.

This is the truth, for now.

Sepulcher, grave of Jesus.

Inescapable, and without will to escape.

Downward – Extending wings.




Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

-The bird is an old metaphor of man.

-Hummingbird brain is more complex than the human brain.

– “We become birds when we die.”

– No robins in North America, but finches.


Poems are talking to other poems; a conversation is going on in every artform.

Poem, “How to Live, What to Do”

Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”

Poem, “Ode to a Skylark”


Birdness of a bird – not point of view, but perspective.

Numerous ways of looking; like cubism.

A shift – from “I” to “13 Ways”

Number becomes arbitrary, potentially meaningless.


I – starts- “Among…” Twenty mountains – space – leaps from 13 to 20, role of the arbitrary.

IT – The poem, the experience – doesn’t add up.

In the abyss, the space between information and understanding.

TS Eliot – Had the experience, missed the understanding.

A location that lacks specificity.

To be particular is to be numerous.


The poem is looking at me.

Eye of the blackbird.

The text doesn’t stand still long enough to understand it.


II – 3 minds, 3 blackbirds (like a tree)

Thought is the object of thought, not a blackbird.

“Socrates is a bum.”

“Soccer cheese bum.”

Thinking about a tree bears no nest/leaves.


Thought is thought, things are things.

The limits of thought are not the limits of life.

Habit of thinking that meaning is a product of thought.

Meaning occurs without thought.

Thought may create distance/problematic.

We turn things into problems to solve.


III – synecdoche/synecdochically

Part of a whole can represent a whole.

-partial remains partial.

“Small part,” of a pantomime (perhaps ‘going through the motions’ of autumn).

Limits of thought.


IV – Man/woman/blackbird – one.


The oneness of things remains stubbornly one, enduringly one.

Though does not pluralize in the presence of temporary unity.


Joseph – Doves

Virginia Woolfe – “To the Lighthouse”

Thoreau – Walden, “I cannot count one, only think of one.”


The poem doesn’t develop at this point.

It just goes on.

-When we grow up, you’re grown up.

“Better” as a supreme fiction?




V – Beauty. “I don’t know…”

Inflections/innuendos/bird whistle/or just after.

The experiences happen in time/sequence.

Where lies preference?


Read poetry – not what is said/added/explained, but for what it is.


THE Beauty!

There is no either/or with a definite article.


VI – Arbitrariness of interpretation – “barbaric glass”

What is mood? Generally? What does mood weigh, and where does mood end?

Everything participates in a phenomenal reality.

Everything that is, IS.


TS Eliot poem

Titus Logicus is Philosophicus (song?)


-Accepting the decipherability allows the experience.

Decoding hinders the experience.


VII – “Thin men in Haddam”

-Golden birds

…SEE the blackbird?

Giving up imagination to see.

Talk about seeing – multiply perspective.

“Do you not see?”

Why imagine when you should/can SEE?


Transposition – Poetry is the product of something seen, not imagined.


Incompetence – Oppression as tradition, absolute incompetence.


Enter the truth from any direction.

Part of the poem’s genius. (genie)


VIII – Noble accents.

Not synthesis, but simultaneity.


All truths are simultaneous.

All perspectives are simultaneous.

Everything been and love.

All the Me’s at the same time.

A boy, youth, man, all at once.

Numerousness, rather than singular truth/perspective/etc.


IX – “Circles,” one of many, circles in the water.


Emerson – Pebbles ring in water.


Which is THE circle?


Remove attention to understand.


Stevens – a comic poet


Buster Keaton

Charlie Chaplin (broke tramp with no limp carries cane)


X – The Sight – Green Light

“Bawds of euphony”?


XI – Rode over Connecticut

“Shadow of his equipage”


Not here to understand each other, but to love each other.


Yeats – “The Apparition”

Scared of a coat on a coat rack.


XII – River moving. Blackbird flying.

No logic, no common sense.


Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – “If you eat a Whopper at Burger King and later get hit by a truck, then eating whoppers will get you hit by a truck.”


Is the poem a test for sanity?


XIII – Evening. Snowing. Also going to snow.

One state is not one state.

Everything participates in simultaneity.

(Perhaps “going to snow” refers to the continuance of snow snowing? JM)


Attention is prophetic.

Perception, not imagination, is the real test of…

(And quite naturally, spacey, I missed the answer. The real test of what? I’ll never know. Oh well. JM)


There it is! THE END




The Idea of Order at Key West


The Solitary Reader

“Behold her,” asking us into the poem.

Like minded audience, unlike Stevens’ poem.


“Will no one tell me what she sings”

Poetic convention

Who are you talking to? To everyone, anyone

A same culture

What’s the song?

“I” existed; absent from Stevens’

Wordsworth is emotionally moved by the woman’s song.


Modernization of pictoral space.

A new arrangement of sounds.


So internalized, aching to be externalized.


Key West – localized

Ramon – conversational


The sea as origin, powerful, coming close to zero.

Get to the beginning.


A cry, that was not ours, not a human matter.

Poem is a network of connections

humility from beginning

knowledge/information is power


Beauty, music, thought

Temporary like Achilles


Truth may be supra-human

The oceanness of the ocean


Immediate, but superficial

Similarities of the two poems


Understanding does not equal ownership

Hearing you does not make you mine


Sea, not a mask

Nothing to look behind

No shabby magicianship


Thinking is continuous with the reality of the real.


Modernism – thought as exposure to, not of, the real

not penetration or regression/aggression

Modernism moving with the real

A continuance

Not to get through, but to join


The poem spends time with its subject matter.

“Word by word”

The song is made of words


Candor of experience


Simple yet remarkable

Song – place, singing, relation between grinding water/gasping sea


We heard some, not all


Stand in presence and comprehend

The poem is comfortable with subject

Not trying to comprehend


Different image of human is proposed


The imagination/contentedness of limited access

We are instantly on level ground

Contrary to Wordsworth

Meaning, experiences, singer involved in cultural network


The Key West song is HERS

Oneness remaining one

Everyone is a one

“If it was only dark…”

Stevens is avowing

Beautiful, enormous, meaningless

How can you know the meaning of life when you are living it?

Among” – Signal word. Not behind/within, but with

Companionship rather than meaning of subject matter


Works of art comforting in a meaningless world

At home with meaninglessness



“Mountainous atmospheres”


Poem – a brief duration of comfort in meaninglessness?

“God is dead” Harsh/incomplete

“Single artificer” – Created the world in which she lives in


The poem/song are simultaneous

They do not overlap or coincide

The meaning of life is your life

The meaning of the poem is the poem


Ramon Fernandez – Aesthetic philosopher

“Tell me, if you know”

Imperative / Passive


Theme – The organizing principle of the world is the world

An experience to find that the world is the world


Conventions in art – excess of authority

Controlling, understanding

Unnecessary – for beauty and truth


Maker – creator, god, uncapitalized


Everything is talking – Seem to have a voice

Other than what Wallace Stevens gives it


We don’t know where we are, where we come from


immediate uncertainty following certainty


Artificial constructs


Meaning – what is heard is heard


End –

“Ghostly demarcations”

“Keener experience”

From definition

Order, structure

Yield to intensity


Purpose – not to perceive order but to experience intensity


“How shall I live?”

Not for order, but intensity of experiences




The Man with the Blue Guitar

Modern – has no definition

Has trajectory, like anything

Location, in poems

You can know where something is and is going

But can’t know both


Modernness – momentary, elusive when fixed

Love the elusiveness

Natural life cycle

Stevens – Late Victorian

Sunday Morning/Key West – sad poems, emptiness to fill, but how?

Industrial revolution

Death of god

Blackbirds – cubistic, many views

Assemblies – don’t try to figure it out

Blue Guitar – modernist, Picasso, old guitarist, all grows up

Serial poet

Conclusions left behind

No answers to questions

Serial poem – one thing has nothing to do with the other

The shock of the new/next.

Sad expression – “comfort zone”

Stanza/lines are not preparing for the following stanza/lines

To be unprepared, not to become a sum

Sensing it IS experiencing it

Modern – for now. Provisional, temporary

Stevens – major phase – serial poetry

Different kind of reading

Zeus – just a student, like us all

Happy to draw no conclusion, uninstructed, but informed. Reading the poem is sufficient.

Reality – limited control/access


Modern poet – “blue guitar,” Picasso guitar, not blue

Gap – between imagination & reality

We like to imagine imagination and reality

Politics – don’t get your heart broken

Dr. Seuss – stole it from Wallace Stevens

Nonsense – what we are willing to accept as the gap


Come to arts for truth

Angry when finding nonsense

Poem does not shrink by letting nonsense in


Humpty Dumpty – “When I use a word, it means exactly what I want. Nothing more, nothing less.”


Pure pleasure of nonsense

Constant risk of nonsense

Charlton Heston, parted the Red Sea, with a .38

Poem – begins sober in tradition

Orpheus/David – poetry comes from lyre/shearsman/shepherd

Beginning at the beginning, where the poem starts


To say anything runs the risk of nonsense

Real time

Nonsense/truth, product of same activity

Venture out of silence – nonsense/truth

Changed circumstance

Qualities of faith – rejected by fundamentalisms

Modernism – not a philosophy, no code/sequence, because it does


Jim Morrison – you can’t petition the lord with prayer


Dozens of modernisms

A faith, affirmed as it is, no logic/argument/rational/symbol

Vacuum filled with modernism

“There is no god, and Mary is his mother”


II – Candid statesman of the partial


“Nightingale” – “I am with thee”

Birds should not smoke

Can we live with “almost real” And how?

Dreams that almost come true

Almost – dispense with aspiration to answer

The question IS the answer

Continual asking of question

The artists always collapsed back into themselves

Dissatisfaction with physical reality

Nothing captured by serial poem

Never internalizes the subject

Only “the other,” remains other/outside/unknown

Understanding is not necessary for experience

“Understanding” “god” unnecessary with faith

Imagination – blessing/curse

A foot in two worlds, never two feet in one world

Like things as they are

Buzzing of the blue guitar


Rimbaud – “Vowels

Miles Davis – “Aura”

Wallace Stevens – Blue Guitar


Modern poem – hope/despair



We know ourselves too well to mistake ourselves for gods

We were Americans, now we’re Americans

For a moment final

Conclusion to conclusion

All the time seems to have conclusion

Tomorrow – more of today, but different


Paying attention catastrophizes the moment

Speaking of the world, myself

Not imaginary

Wine/blood: sacramental precincts

Imagination/reality impossible to connect

Belief without the object of belief

Belief can only exist without the object of belief

“I believe…” object of belief in modernist circumstance

Believing in believing, not something else


Classical point of view – pejorative, blue guitar, doesn’t allow things to happen as a means to an end

Lord, lead me out of this world, it is growing faint, I don’t think it goes all the way.

Attitudes toward faith and modern

Madness of space

Subject and object – connection by verb


King Lear – unaccompanied man, “Howl, howl, howl”

Removes the words/explanations

Stevens – contact with the realization

Access to reality, denied by access to reality, doom rather than means to transport


“Two dreams” – bread, stone, bed

Exposure – art, love, faith, imperfection of imagination

Existence, not an arrival

Remembering, existence enough?



Esthétique du Mal

Graham Rob – 100 French words that don’t rhyme.

Milton – 17th Century

Mal – surreality

Going beyond interpretation

Du Mal – Charles Bodilaire/Bolaire(?) – “Fleur de Mal”

Rough, but no real connection

The poem walks around

The poem and the street – modern idea

The street – entered/exited, moved upon

Street life, street carnival, street fair

Relationship to streets gives indication of culture

Abolition of hierarchies

No dominant, no persona, no point of view

Trying to understand it makes it confusing

An attitude towards things as they are


Start –

To be anywhere is to be more than one place simultaneously

There – a circumstance

Classically – a knot of circumstance

Reading equals writing and vice versa…in poetry

The present is indescribable, circumstance, so nervous – indescribable

T.S. Elliot – It is impossible to say just what I mean.

Cannot speak of it, because I am in it

Language – describing

Modernism – indescribable

Performance – modernity versus Aristotelian

“It was almost time for lunch. Pain is human.”

Sublimity – “happened to be there?”

Stevens, Williams, Crane

Stevens – isolated in/by humanness

Self aware – groans at time’s passage & limitations.

We groan from humanity

Not access but isolation

The passage of time, destruction felt alone

Special access equals special pain. Pain is human.

The human suffers the otherness in knowing of its own humanness


Alienation from joy

Saved by what we cannot know

Damned by what we DO know

Stevens – Not the knower, not outside, not deprived

Poetry – attempt to cure language?

No grammar – no difference between us and the world

Being is enough

In the dictionary – the beginning – a word…untrue

Imagining an elsewhere – you are nowhere

Saving the problem of a city by walking through it

Narcissism & the doom of narcissism

No “point of view” – everything occurring at the same time and better for it

Health of imagination or health of the world

What rules? We think of the world or the world?


VII – Death of Satan – Tragedy for the Imagination

Lucifer died. Imaginary death of an imaginary figure

Tragedy is imaginary. Invention to a noble accident

We invent satanic – to create good/evil dualism

By nature of language, doomed to reality

Dispensing fantasy & hallucination

Which are used to define ourselves

Satan – Paradise Lost – “I’m different,” the human problem

We don’t accept our creatureness – creatures – access to the real

Satanic – “I cant account for me”

The access creatures have to creation

Limited by language

Poems are seeking


X – Phantoms – Existence, Self-Justifying?

Imaginations make phantoms of us all

Haunting a world in which we might live

Modernism – Looking for a way to say “yes”

The modern doesn’t take attendance

Root of language – simile/metaphor/comparison

How the spirit struck me. An academic quaker

Modernism – to be free from nostalgia


XI – Fundamental Dissatisfaction

The last nostalgia – understanding

Language is creation to desire to understand (conundrum)

Live life without understanding life

Every culture has its modernism, almost transcending nostalgia


XV – “The Greatest Poverty” – To Want anything is to be in want

Missing time, totality of what is

You are here.

With a desire to be elsewhere

Classicists/idealists, in spite of ourselves


Let be be finally of seem. Ice cream.

“Humanity” – isolates us from the world. Excludes other species

Disney – Last place of American revolution

Paradise unknown. You know it because no one ever says, “This is it.” Self-awareness.

Who told you you were naked? Self-consciousness

Definite article – “This!” “Here!” “There!”

Of what it sees, for all the ill it sees

Living in a physical world. Birth acquiesced to death.

Revoke birth of knowing of death

“Who could’ve thought” – thought did not make the world.

Sensuous – beyond thought

We do not need metaphysics for change

Where we live, gives us change




Chaos in Motion & Not in Motion

(Snowman – emperor of ice cream – soliloquy)


Stevens – shorter poems – postcards from the modern catastrophe

Modern poem – catastrophic

– Post-humanism

Humans had solutions to human difficulties

Problems, no solution, WE ARE our problem

The planet, ecology, problem – humans

Modernism – innovation – let’s be something else

Shakespeare – sonnets solving dilemma of humanity, beautiful, young, you will die

Stanza – Italian word for “room”

– Stevens – no object of belief, art for sake of art

Doing it feels better than doing nothing


Poem of storm “chaos”

Poem of serenity “house was quiet”


Satisfaction of hurricane

Dissatisfaction of tropical depression

Not weather – circumstance

Humanity – the problem


American revolution – bitterness, great fun, but probable mistake



“Oh lashing wind…”

Chaos – Heisenberg principle

Motion/no motion – post-humanism


Point of view – too limited for comprehension


Chaos – system – many centers

Cosmos – system – one center


Ludwig Richter – landscape painter

John Constable – cows, odd numbers (aesthetic landscape?)


Everything in place/proportion

Stevens – harmonic poems out of disorder


Liberation beyond imagination to see the world without turning it into a composition


Human condition – unable to see without interpreting what we see.

More profound sadness that the human sees it.

You – did it

The poem – inexplicable


Who’s afraid of Virgina Woolf – if you existed, I’d divorce you


“Thickest” thunder – interpretation

“Spectacle” – no, rain

Smear – language and assumptions, syntax, hierarchies (languages, tenses)


We exist intermittently – humanness enthralls

Reminded when we’ve forgotten


Whitman – “Think”…live with animals, never happens


Surrealism – seems to promise velocity

Strangeness – humanness

Sake of singularity


False hope is hope never the less


– The world in mind – takes ourselves out of the world

Dread the day the dream of art/culture/civilization comes true


Pretending the mind can contain hopelessly outside the world


Consciousness – a form of exile

Can it be altered?


Desire without object of desire

Belief without object of belief


Stevens – no one to blame but ourselves, the world, or nothing


Shakespeare – The Tempest – know to curse


Poem – articulation of exile from the world

Nothing to say – saying it

Much to say – nothing




The House Was Quiet & The World Was Calm

And” – conclusive/exclusive


To exile the house from the world


Hotel – “in the world” – “feel like you’re here”


Calm – no meaning – no alternative

Where’s summer?


Poetry – like prayer in another language


Conscious being of the “book”

Disturbing disappearing act


We become distinguished – the opposite of what we want


“Leaning” – physical gesture out of physicality

Civilized with wished of “truth”


“World map” – it’s only paper


– “Summer night” – sensual imagination

– Stink of ideal envelopes real



“Perception and the page”

Dual realities

Equations for comparing not-beings states


Stevens – short poems – exquisites to nothings there and elsewhere


Qualities – calm, quiet, turbulence, lashing


Captivated, dissipated, displaced by idealities (human consciousness)


– The small rain down can rain

– I wish/imagine I was somewhere else

– Complain the world doesn’t live up to the expectations of the world

– Annihilation – happy ending


– “Itself” – drains visual of calm/summer – truth/meaning

Agree to terms considered meaningful


– Reality – envelopes the man with back turned to the reality…

conscious prevents us from being conscious


Stevens – can rid himself of Plato

– Ideal – overshadow qualities of the world

– Prosperous – but can’t help it

– We think ourselves out of existence

– Poverty – deprivation resulting from having an imagination


Good – taught you better, infected for best


Richard Hugo – Degrees of…?


America – denying of imagination

“Happy Meals” – I’m sick, my burger is happy


Via imagination – divert from quality of present

Stevens – knows the beauty of the world; the very art deprives him of the world (conundrum)


– Somehow tragedy meant to unify with beloved, which recedes from reach because of reach




The Auroras of Autumn

– Where Stevens arrives


I – Start – “Where the serpent lives”

Bodiless – not living

The idea, the Platonic, the serpent, Eden


– Stevens – lives for the imagination even though it makes his life poor


The imagination – the serpent


– Language – equally access and barrier to imagination

“Have some imagination”

Imagination – a distraction?

– Stevens – the problem of a languaged animal.

Sad poetry, but not morose (like Sweet Pea from Popeye)


– Soul – leap from body – everything comes through skin & senses. Escaping for immortality ends mortality. Death is the mother of beauty after all.


W.H. Auden – to be a minor poet is overwhelming ambition


– Abandon flesh and immortality (conundrum)

– Through senses – across the eternal

– “Serpent body flashing without skin”

“In another nest” – the news of eternity

– Stevens – heroic, great effort, tries not to be trapped, to escape self-imposed limits



II – “Farewell to an idea” – cabin stands

Trying to be real

The wind/sand/floor

– Real – not Stevens best subject, resists his own nature here



III – “Farewell to an idea” – mother’s face

– Stevens – stripping himself of his usual content

– Accepting loss – moms die, buildings crumble, mortality

Death – mother of beauty (an idea) (no, just death)

Acknowledging the limitations of his gift

Aurora of autumn – not an idea, fact

Truth IS – not a product of imagination



IV – “Farewell to an idea” – cancellings

First – effort towards – real

Second – effort towards – mother

Third – effort towards – death? Father?


The imagination of distance and abstraction

“Master oh master” – what do we do?



V – “The mother” – table. “The father” – fancy

– Imagination – a dream of the imagination

– There is only facts (final) & fancies (eternal)


– Old chaos of the sun

– “What festival?”

– Imagination – an inclination to being unreal



VI – “It is a theater”

– The hidden message – no message. It is what it is


– Farewell – we are not the arbiter of change. Change is the arbiter to us


– Most important passage!

“The denouement has to be postponed…”


Cabin, beach, Wally, little poem, opens door, aurora, on flames! Candle, flaring the flames

Feels afraid, as he should, annihilated by that which is

Stevens – flamboyant penitent


Necessary cataclysmic

Death is death

Beauty is beauty

We don’t make the connection

Outside the cabin – enormity was overpowering

Poem – submits to limitations of poetry

Made great with small claim for poetry

And he feels afraid



VIII – “It is” – Unlike Stevens – no objection is

Reality – a place where we can rest

The lights – so spectacular – all that can be said is that they “are”


Mortality – too often taken too seriously

Afflicted – with the fiction of meaning



IX – “And each other thought”

Stevens – ends poetic life, imagining poetry of rest

Acceptance of loss & and change

Rest in death

“It may come tomorrow”

Almost – nothing eraticular/prophetic

Tenderest – tricky word

Humanity – not entirely escapable



X – “Turn back to where” –

Obtain – momentary trust

Never stay for long


– There we are where we begin

Yeatsantithetical – know what’s true, can’t accept what’s true

– Exacerbating restlessness

– Blaze of summer straw

– Winter’s nick – nick, typing impression, encoding permanent cold

– Contention – beauty of poetry – anguish of reality