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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thursday January 19, 2006

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:48 AM
The Man Who Was Thursday:
An Introduction

“Wallace Stevens’s remarkable oeuvre is a quasi-spiritual quest for the supreme fiction, for a poetry that ‘must take the place / Of empty heaven and its hymns’ and thus help modern man find meaning in a godless world. The poet’s role, for Stevens, is that of high priest of the imagination: it is the poet who ‘gives to life the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive of it.’ ….
… Stevens’s hallmark ‘imagination-reality’ complex… is pursued almost obsessively in his poetry and prose of the 1940s. Parts of a World, published in 1942, and the poem-sequence of the same year, ‘Notes toward a Supreme Fiction’ (‘Notes’ was subsequently collected in Transport to Summer in 1947), comprise a prolonged meditation in a time of war on poetry and the poet’s role, in the face of what Stevens, in his essay ‘The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,’ terms ‘the pressure of reality.’ Parts of a World is riven by its competing vocabularies. A discourse of desire, of process, of the poet’s contemplation of the mind in the act of finding what will suffice, is elaborated in ‘the never-resting mind’ of ‘The Poems of Our Climate’ and in ‘The Well Dressed Man with a Beard,’ in which ‘It can never be satisfied, the mind, never’ [occurs]. A very different idiom, that of the ‘hero’ or ‘major man,’ the figure of capable imagination, dominates and directs such poems as ‘Mrs Alfred Uruguay,’ ‘Asides on the Oboe’ and ‘Examination of the Hero in a Time of War,’ where

    Summer, jangling
         the savagest diamonds and
    Dressed in its
         azure-doubled crimsons,
    May truly bear
         its heroic fortunes
    For the large,
         the solitary figure.”

Lee M. Jenkins,
    University College Cork,
   “Wallace Stevens,”
    The Literary Encyclopedia,
    9 Dec., 2004.

For some related serious, but less solemn, remarks, click on the above date.

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