Happy Year of the Rabbit!

from David Lynch's "Rabbits" (2002)

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  I missed Wallace Stevens week last fall because of a hectic schedule, but here’s “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts” to celebrate the occasion: 

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten on the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full

And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.



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Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!


John Domini has reminded me that 180 years ago today Dickinson was born. Recently, I was told by someone that he or she had read somewhere something about overrated writers and writing, and that someone at that somewhere said something like, “Anything by Emily Dickinson is overrated,” which brought to mind somebody saying something to me something about how Wallace Stevens wasn’t worth talking about since he’s so widely anthologized, since he’s such an entrenched part of the canon, which all makes me wonder what others think about such dismissals. Do you really care that others think that Dickinson and Stevens and others of their caliber are considered passé?

“Fat, too, fool, hey?” – The Mind in Morning (Snow in film)

Snow: Kubrick style

Having just reread William Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid” yesterday morning, I decided to do a study of associations–what my brain does as I read, what I think of, what I take away–though right there I sally and this Heraclitus quote, used as an epigraph in W.S. Merwin’s The Lice, drips back into my consciousness:

All men are deceived by the appearances of things, even Homer himself, who was the wisest man in Greece; for he was deceived by boys catching lice: they said to him, “What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us.”

Is this nugget saying that which we can’t understand stays with us? Maybe. But more and more I take with me what is mysterious. The trove of Wallace Stevens poems that I’ve examined recently has somewhat sunk into me as what I write now leaks his influence. But really the conglomerate of Gass/Gaddis/Rilke/Stevens via John Madera has been instrumental in boosting the language quotient and destroying a quasi-plain style I took on after a few months with Lydia Davis. So lines or formations like, “She wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do and this frustrated him,” become “There is a way you carry yourself, he said, quickly breaking off because evening drew on, evening and everything evening measures. Our pace, the space between canyons, this leaf living in the book on the chair.”

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Curtis White on Wallace Stevens

The following is taken from White’s excellent book The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves (2003 HarperCollins) (reprinted with permission):

“Wallace Stevens’s little book of essays, The Necessary Angel (1942), deserves far more relevance than it seems to have in the present. Stevens’s book is intelligent, humane, and inventive in a way that we should want to value in the present and ever other future moment. The subtitle of this slim book is ‘Essays on Reality and the Imagination.’ What is extraordinary in Stevens’s perception is his certainty that reality and imagination do not stand different from and opposed to one another. They are in fact the same thing. Imagination ‘has the strength of reality or none at all.’ (7)

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W.F. Lantry on Visiting Stevens

"One must have a mind of winter": In 1932, Stevens purchased this 1926 Colonial Revival style house in Hartford, living there until his death in 1955.

VISITING STEVENS

My world is real, but it is not yours. In mine, small electric devices are engraved with lines from Stevens: “The single artificer of the world.” We were in Vermont, and driving home. Shirley was with us. We had to go through Hartford.

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Three poems: Two after “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, One on Pilgrimage

Three wonderful writers sent in poems–two after one of Stevens’s most popular and most influential poems, “Thirteen Ways of Looking a Blackbird” In alphabetical order: Tiff Holland, W.F. Lantry, and William Walsh

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