Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things

The Plain Sense of Things

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.
Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as necessity requires.

Often you cannot explain why a poem strikes you the way it does. Some poems simply nail you and your experience of things and settles itself between thoughts and empty space. To me, this is one of them.

I recognize the vague and unexplicable feeling of sadness and sorrow, as well as a simplicity hard to articulate. There are certain images that strike me, like the disembodied turban floating across the floor, and the green pond in its it-ness and is-ness, just sitting there behind the letters and words, stating its existence as objectively and matter-of-factly as only reality can.
Of course, there are other dimensions to this poem, like Stevens' metapoetic statemens like "it is difficult even to choose the adjective" and "Yet the absence of the imagination had/ Itself to be imagined"

It's the simplicity of the whole thing that strikes me so, I think. We can all recognize the simplicity and sorrow weighing beneath the words, the real reality so to speak. Nature in its merciless objectivity. Quite a feat, I think, for such a short poem to incarnate that much.

2 comments: said...

Det har vi aldri nevnt oss i mellom, men Wallace Stevens er en av de store tilstedeværelsene i mitt liv. "A Glass of Water"...

Anonymous said...

If you like the Stevens poem, consider viewing, if you have yet to do so, the films of Yasujiro Ozu. You might just find a cinematic equivalent to what Stevens captures here and much more.