Tuesday 4 November 2008

Without Poetry...

There is a bookshop that I visit occasionally
where the poetry shelf
is in the middle of the ground floor
rather than hidden upstairs in a dark corner.
I stand there and read the recommendations
stuck to the shelf edges;
they are written in an enthusiastic scrawl
by someone called Jus.


Notes on reading
Wallace Stevens (Poet to Poet)
edited by John Burnside
cover picture:
Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper

Without Poetry I am Nothing

So many names I do not know.
I am very ignorant.

Who is Wallace Stevens?
Is it a man or a woman?
I do not know.

Someone has held the book before me
and it falls open,
the pages splayed.

"Among twenty snowy mountains"...
the words slip inwards
and my mind fills with silence
in that Saturday bookshop.

And here I read of
"lucid, inescapable rhythms"
I know this knowledge
inside of me
even if I do not know the poet.

The images encircle me
and jostle for space
"barbaric glass";
"the long window";
"a green light"

I must have this poem.
This poem has told me
something I did not know.
Without poetry I am nothing.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Wallace Stevens 1879 - 1955


Mary Beth said...

I love Wallace Stevens though I'm sure I don't understand much of it. Here's one that makes me snicker for some odd reason. It's called Tea.
"When the elephant's-ear in the park
Shrivelled in frost,
And the leaves on the paths
Ran like rats,
Your lamp-light fell
On shining pillows,
Of see-shades and sky-shades,
Like umbrellas in Java.

Christy said...

while I have no real appreciation for poetry, I absolutely love Edward Hopper. His subjects' sense of aloneness is deliciously achy. Excellent artistic choice to accompany this poem.

Anonymous said...

I've been dipping into poetry now and then here in Germany, too. Every once in a while I find a poet who speaks to me, like Wallace Stevens spoke to you. Some recent favorites of mine include Mary Oliver, Galway Kinnell and Billy Collins.

Beautiful post, Alice. I plan to check for Wallace Stevens at my library soon. Thanks for sharing...

A time to dance said...

Beauiful - I had all love of poetry drummed and beaten out of me at university when I studied English and Drama in my first year we were stuffed to the brim with it by a very very uninspiring tutor but as I grow older and greyer my appreciation grows - as does my need for something to stimulate the minds of my charges....Thank you for a lovely start to tuesday and my aternoon with the frogs in boxes.....

dottycookie said...

I am horrendously undereducated in poetry - my knowledge extends not far beyond Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Yeats - all the old O-level faves. But I do very much enjoy Wendy Cope, when I need cheering up.

And there was I expecting a picture of your kitchen!

Quinn said...

I enjoy poetry read aloud - the sound of the words is crucial, to me.

Could you please "source" the painting? thanks!

alice c said...

The picture is Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper (1950)

I should stress that although the picture says exactly what I want to say...it is in fact the cover of the book that I am referring to and therefore the credit should go to the design team at the publishers.

Anonymous said...

oh... lovely.

(my word verification is 'derbu'.. that is NOT poetry)

(Sorry for the post-modernist comment... I love Robert Frost)

Anonymous said...

Time for some Odgen Nash I feel ...

MrsM operates on a higher level to me

Eleanor said...

My favourite literature professor used to say that it's not how many books you have read that matters, and it's not how many names of writers you know that counts. What counts is that you know how to read...that you can pick up any text and truly read it and learn and change from it.

So, that being said, I do not think you are at all ignorant.

P.S. I see what you mean about windows opening and closing...I see them everywhere I look now.

The Coffee Lady said...

oh, Wallace Stevens

of course my favourite poem of his is Sunday Morning, just for the line "Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair"