I’ve just been thinking it would be nice to have a thread dedicated to poetry that is moving, delighting, troubling, perplexing, or informing us at any particular moment in time. To start things off, here is one I recently came across via a post on Mastodon, and I just felt it was exquisite.
Wallace Stevens Comes Back to Read His Poems at the 92nd Street Y
By Mark Strand
It was a willfulness, an exertion, which verged
At once on fluency, that I should appear, as I did
Today, out of light-blue air, in a dark-blue suit.
In the time that I have been gone, I never outgrew
The sensation of being, nor for a moment forgot
Which world was mine. I clung to the merest whispers,
The faintest echoes that rose from below. For years,
I lay on a down-filled sofa, alone with my passions.
Bright refrains of endless azure circled
The hours, and filled me with pleasure, but the poems
I wrote were dulled by the sort of calm one feels
In the downward drift of sleep. They never became
The relics of light I wished them to be. In the days
When it could be said I was one of you, I loved
The beyond as somebody only can who is bound
By the earth. All that I wrote was a hymn to desire,
To the semblances and stages of bliss. My poems
Bore only a passing likeness to the life
Of which they were the miraculous part. But when
I was borne among the erasures of heaven I began
To believe that whatever was distant or puzzling could never
Be made too obvious. Of course I was wrong.
I’d allowed myself to be swayed by a vision of plainness
That would have all things turn into one idea.
So much for the past. May the worst of it fall by the wayside
Tonight. May other more intricate powers convene.
May the words that I speak be the ones you hear.
via The New Yorker
Poetry is so often a conversation with the dead. I love how this poem acts as a conjuration—as it were, a channeling—as if it was always more natural for Stevens to speak to us from the “other side” than from this one.
I especially love the phrase “relics of light” to describe the poems Wallace would wish to write from his empyrean abode. The last line is perfection: “May the words that I speak be the ones you hear.”
Because of course, there are always issues of translation, interpretation, and signal-fidelity when transmitting between worlds, dimensions, or minds. Are the words (we think) we speak ever the ones that others hear?
Wonderful irony that Strand’s poem itself had to come back to us from the dead.