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:
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.
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.