11 November 2007

Nuances of a Theme by Williams


Shine alone, shine nakedly, shine like bronze,
that reflects neither my face nor any inner part
of my being, shine like fire, that mirrors nothing.


Lend no part to any humanity that suffuses
you in its own light.
Be not chimera of morning,
Half-man, half-star.
Be not an intelligence,
Like a widow's bird
Or an old horse.

~ Wallace Stevens

James Longenbach on "Nuances of a Theme by Williams" in The Resistance to Poetry:
Stevens is entering an inevitable dialectic in which the power of a word's untidy activity depends on our inability to recognize it dependably, in which the power of self-forgetfulness is contingent on the specter of self-loathing--the inability ever to forget ourselves. To deny a metaphor's ability to distract us from what it also says is to place ourselves at odds with the pleasure of poetry. But if the language of poetry were not haunted by failure, by its inability to distract us, we could never forget it.

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