Friday, October 31, 2008

Casual Friday--Poetry IV

Normally, my Friday poetry posts deal with fun activities in the vein of found art and piecing together random words in a sort of poetic collage. No, it's nothing that serious or revealing, but I find it enjoyable. However, for this installment (and for more future Friday poetry entries), I'd like to focus on a poem by Wallace Stevens. As I've mentioned quite a few times, I'm not as knowledgeable on poetry as I'd like to be, at least as far as having a basic eye for certain poets and styles. Undoubtedly there are "easier" poets I could have started with, but Wallace Stevens's name has continually shown up in my readings.

While reading one of his poetry collections, I came across "On the Road Home," and was struck by how it seems to reflect both the current American landscape, as well as my personal life:

"On the Road Home" By Wallace Stevens
"It was when I said,
'There is no such thing as the truth,'
That the grapes seemed fatter.
The fox ran out of his hole.
You...You said,
'There are many truths,
But they are not parts of a truth.'
Then the tree, at night, began to change,
Smoking through green and smoking blue.
We were two figures in a wood.
We said we stood alone.
It was when I said,
'Words are not forms of a single word.
In the sum of the parts, there are only the parts.
The world must be measured by eye';
It was when you said,
'The idols have seen lots of poverty,
Snakes and gold and lice,
But not the truth';
It was at that time, that the silence was largest
And longest, the night was roundest,
The fragrance of the autumn warmest,
Closest and strongest (164-5)."
I'm afraid that if I analyze it too much, the tone of this entry will lean to the side of technical rather than poetic. I'll try to keep my ideas to a minimum and let the poem speak to you (the reader) in the ways it personally should. The opening stanza seems to hold the idea that, even in the best of times, there is always a sad reality on the horizon. In these post September 11th years, we've experienced this. How quickly we've gone from prosperity to international woes and a sinking economy, complete with countless people giving countless opinions. "There is no such thing as the truth," indeed.
The fourth stanza, on a very superficial level, reminded me of next week's Presidential election, although the use of the word idol would be too grandiose for either Barack Obama or John McCain, based on your preference. However, they have both seen lots of poverty, both literally and figuratively, as they've made their campaign rounds these past several months. Whomever wins still hasn't seen the truth, since a position like that can only be known once the office has been obtained.
The third stanza speaks loudly to me, as it probably would to any writer and reader. "In the sum of the parts, there are only the parts." Again, making a connection that might be a stretch, projects can seem ungodly daunting, and at times it can be easy to be pessimistic, to get caught up in the tiny details without taking the entire project into account. This goes for writing, drawing, research, and pretty much anything creative. This very idea also highlights one of the poem's themes (as I see it): contrasts between pessimism and optimism.
Hmm...I have some more ideas in mind, but as I said, I'll let the poem stand on its own. I think I'm overriding it with unnecessary "touchy-feeliness."
Work Cited:
Stevens, Wallace. The Palm At the End Of the Mind. Copyright 1971 by Holly Stevens.

1 comment:

James Yates said...

Sorry, but for some reason I was having some formatting issues. The poem is in its full form, but not spaced in the posting the way Stevens intended. No, not the end of the world, but it irks me a bit. So, accept my apologies.

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