Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Ultimate Poem Is Abstract, by Wallace Stevens

Our guests:

Heather Christle is the author of The Difficult Farm and The Trees The Trees, both published by Octopus Books. She lives in Northampton, MA.

Michelle Taransky is the author of Barn Burned, Then, which Marjorie Welish selected for the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize. She lives in Philadelphia where she teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

The poem:

The Ultimate Poem Is Abstract
by Wallace Stevens

This day writhes with what? The lecturer
On This Beautiful World Of Ours composes himself
And hems the planet rose and haws it ripe,

And red, and right. The particular question—here
The particular answer to the particular question
Is not in point—the question is in point.

If the day writhes, it is not with revelations.
One goes on asking questions. That, then, is one
Of the categories. So said, this placed space

Is changed. It is not so blue as we thought. To be blue,
there must be no questions. It is an intellect
Of windings round and dodges to and fro,

Writhings in wrong obliques and distances,
Not an intellect in which we are fleet: present
Everywhere in space at once, cloud-pole

Of communication. It would be enough
If we were ever, just once, at the middle, fixed
In This Beautiful World Of Ours and not as now,

Helplessly at the edge, enough to be
Complete, because at the middle, if only in sense,
And in that enormous sense, merely enjoy.

The crossfire:

Heather Christle: Surrounded by such reason one cannot help
but imagine that the middle is at last at hand
and that whichever edges one has seen
one also has imagined. Has had. Has held.
Having in point though disappeared one is
weatherlike. One are all clouds.

Michelle Taransky: Reading this poem this particular time, for the first time I think:
It is possible that Marjorie Perloff's chapter "Pound/Stevens: Whose Era?" is a homophone for Hugh Kenner's book "The Pound Era."
It is possible that Marjorie Perloff is "The lecturer/On This Beautiful World Of Ours."

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