Friday, August 2, 2013

Wallace Stevens: Banal Sojourn

Today is the anniversary of the death of the American poet Wallace Stevens. His work, especially his earlier work, displays a remarkable command of descriptive language. Stevens is never ordinary in his descriptions, perhaps due to his belief that the Self is, in some real sense, a creator of reality—that is, the human observer, as a perceiver, defines the world for him or her self. Well, enough of that. Here is one of my favorite Stevens poems.

Banal Sojourn

Two wooden tubs of blue hydrangeas stand at the foot of the stone steps.
The sky is a blue gum streaked with rose. The trees are black.
The grackles crack their throats of bone in the smooth air.
Moisture and heat have swollen the garden into a slum of bloom.
Pardie! Summer is like a fat beast, sleepy in mildew,
Our old bane, green and bloated, serene, who cries,
“That bliss of stars, that princox of evening heaven!” reminding me of the seasons,
When radiance came running down, slim through the bareness.
And so it is one damns that green shade at the bottom of the land.
For who can care at the wigs despoiling the Satan ear?
And who does not seek the sky unfuzzed, soaring to the princox?
One has a malady, here, a malady. One feels a malady.


  1. I have a love / hate relationship with Stevens. He either blows me away or leaves me utterly confused, depending on the poem.

    1. Yeah, that's true. I think his earlier poems are more accessible, but the reader definitely has to make an effort to try to understand. However, reading him, even if I don't always understand him, reveals the power of perception. I know I often fall into trite or familiar phrasing/metaphor. But Stevens--look at that third line! How unusual but perfectly accurate is that!!