Lately I’ve been reading the posthumous poems of Wallace Stevens. I think of them as Stevensian “out takes” or Stevens “unplugged”–they have all the oddness of French symbolism and neo-Platonism that marks the poet’s best work but the poems are,for lack of a more sophisticated word, “goofier” than even the silliest of Stevens’ poems from the published canon. And so last night as a massive thunder storm swept into Iowa City and as the tornado sirens were sounding–as I was waking my wife and gathering up loose possessions and urging my guide dog down to the cellar, well, I felt the sequenced absurdities of life and death that circulate in Stevens.
Poo Pah! Bangalore! The tornado knocks on our front door!
He’s a darkling dumbell. He’s pure gestalt!
Aptest angel, without anthem!
Yes, poor tornado. There are no rekindled lips to sing his praises. Oh but we can pull his tail. We can mutter poems in the basement. All is order there, and elegance, two candles and three sets of eyes under the stairs…