Sunday, August 2, 2009

We've just returned from a family holiday, five days in Amsterdam; my first visit there and I wasn't disapppointed. It's the quietest and most traffic-free capital city I've ever been to, though you do have to watch out for the cyclists, who don't stop for anyone. We walked for miles in the sunshine along the tree-lined canals. As reading, I took the poems of Wallace Stevens. I was intending to get stuck into Stevens' late, long poem-sequences, but ended up agreeing with Lee Harwood in his afterword to Wendy Mulford's 'Collected Poems', when he asks "Do we ever 'do justice' to others' poems? Ever pay enough attention?" With poetry like Stevens', you feel it could take a lifetime to 'do justice' to it. As it turned out I read and re-read "The Man with the Blue Guitar". In case you haven't read it recently, here's part of this rich poem:

XXVII

It is the sea that whitens the roof.
The sea drifts through the winter air.

It is the sea that the north wind makes.
The sea is in the falling snow.

This gloom is the darkness of the sea.
Geographers and philosophers,

Regard. But for that salty cup,
But for the icicles on the eaves -

The sea is a form of ridicule.
The iceberg settings satirize

The demon that cannot be himself,
That tours to shift the shifting scene.

XXVIII

I am a native in this world
And think in it as a native thinks,

Gesu, not native of a mind
Thinking the thoughts I call my own,

Native, a native in the world
And like a native think in it.

It could not be a mind, the wave
In which the watery grasses flow

And yet are fixed as a photograph,
The wind in which the dead leaves blow.

Here I inhale profounder strength
And as I am, I speak and move

And things are as I think they are
And say they are on the blue guitar.

5 comments:

Ed Baker said...

Stevens' poems
especially
the longer series


well...
the end-lines always POPPED for me.... and the images' twist.

heck Amsterdam as your photo
shows in 2009 as it was (for me) in 1968!


as good as any city can get/be. and

dig it

I think NYC largely settled by The Dutch, and later, other's escaping from Europe..

Alan Baker said...

New York, of course, was almost New Amsterdam. I can imagine Amsterdam wasn't that different 40 years ago - the central area seems unspoilt, with the corporate world confined to the outer suburbs.

Congratulations on the new blog Ed. I'll be following...

Ed Baker said...

so... I dumped my blog! i lasted about 4 hours! heck, I can use my keyboard as a REAL type-writer
and play with myself! like this:


IN THIS GLEAM

It s
instantaneous
facture


where
rock
becomes

soft
-ness

is
it s

other


.simplicit

.lithochronos


chisel
in
hand

hand
in
mind

rock
be/comes

is
what
in
mind-
imagined

is
real
as
stone
is
real
as
girl
is

temporal



where
does

"this"

take n give


in all
directions ?

go?


a bird
sings:

does not speak a single
word

of


what She sees or means
I hear as that is

what in life I here is, also,

accidental:

"draw me now", she demanded, a slight pout delights her face,
her sun-lit tawny body wet from bath

tiny tawny tiddies,

"just as I am.... mud-luscious.".



In her
garden
yellow flowers

wave back
are
punctuate ....

she humsongs :
"flower
my life through

they" and smiles

in a foreign language



... etc

(not "great" poetry... but what is?


k.

Alan Baker said...

Nice poem. Especially ".lithochronos"

AidanSemmens said...

I like 'humsongs' as a oneword verb. I also like Wallace Stevens (and Amsterdam). But my holiday reading? Zola, then more Zola, interspersed with the Harry Patch biography and John Barrow on the origin of the universe. All good stuff, but no poetry. Maybe this is why I don't quite hack it as a poet... ;-)