Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1, 2010 -- Wallace Stevens -- 3 poems + TSE Burnt Norton

Today's topic was slated as "minding time and mind timing" --and just what is time...
multiplication; how many times; 2 times 2;
music: to measure
seasonal: a time to sow/reap
earth time: as hours; as shifts; as path around sun
sideral time:
time warp

two poets who experienced the excitement of discoveries which changed our thinking about time; who encountered Eastern philosophy and contemplated the nature of reality.
According to Wallace Stevens, reality is a product of our imagination as it shapes the world.
3 poems :
Wallace Stevens: The Snowman; 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.
TSE: Burnt Norton (4 Quartets)

What a delight to spend an hour and a half sharing our perceptions, not in order to
understand the words, and lock them into a cage, but rather accepting that truth escapes words... poetry resists intelligence...

Discussion of Burnt Norton:

We read it aloud, a sentence at a time, rocked in the lyricism and Marge said how she likes to listen to TS Eliot reading, and puts on the record of him before going to sleep,
and that it’s like a lullaby saying, “not to worry”.

We would need to read it again and have years of discussion on this rich meditation.
The 5 tercet sentence with two semi-colons, 4 commas of The Snowman also addresses time. No memory, only sight and sound: snow; sun; and sound repeated three times, just as nothing is repeated three times. Silence between the sibilance with prerequisites for seeing (one must have a mind of winter to regard; and to have been cold a line time to behold) and a mind of winter not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind – imbedded in the sound of a few leaves which is the sound of the land, which is full of the same wind -- and then one wonders – about same applied to wind, and bare place. And is the listener nothing himself, or perhaps a snowman, who will become nothing in Spring. Such strange fullness in the glitter, the sound, the numb emptiness of winter.

Breaking up the sound reveals patterns in the meaning and tone :
ST sounds.
must / frost / distant / listener : (cold a long time)

S as plural:
boughs / pine-trees / junipers / spruces / leaves: (what is covered)

SH sound
snow (twice) and Snowman title.

ice / sun / sound light, reflection, music

misery / is misery has nothing to do with “is”
The trick of the unending sentence lies in AND. It comes after the semi-colons, in the last tercet, snuggled between an end-line comma and the comma before the second word of the second line, and finally, completes the six syllable count to balance “nothing that is not there”. Jay Keyser explains it in an interview on NPR – how just as we think we understand a sentence, the “and” appears and forces us to rethink what we thought we understood. Here are Keyser’s closing remarks about why it is a perfect poem.

“I once put all the words of the poem on little white cards and made a mobile out of it. It dangled, perfectly balanced, like an Alexander Calder creation. The poem, twisting and turning when I blew on it, became the visual counterpart of what it's about.

But what is it about? The poem is a recipe for seeing things as they really are. To do that, you must see the world the way the snow man does. The snow man is free of human biases. He knows that in winter the days aren't cold and miserable; you are. To see like him, you must constantly challenge your own assumptions. It's one thing to say that in words. It's quite another to say it in the structure the words hang on. No one did it before. No one has done it since. You can measure great jugglers by how many balls they keep in the air. It's the same thing with poets.”
(November 29, 2005)

"Compare the silent rose of the sun And rain, the blood-rose living in its smell, With this paper, this dust. That states the point." ~ Wallace Stevens

Now, enjoy this poem :

Man and Bottle

The mind is the great poem of winter, the man,
Who, to find what will suffice,
Destroys romantic tenements
Of rose and ice

In the land of war. More than the man, it is
A man with the fury of a race of men,
A light at the center of many lights,
A man at the center of men.

It has to content the reason concerning war,
It has to persuade that war is part of itself,
A manner of thinking, a mode
Of destroying, as the mind destroys.

An aversion, as the world is averted
From an old delusion, an old affair with the sun,
An impossible aberration with the moon,
A grossness of peace.

It is not the snow that is the quill, the page.
The poem lashes more fiercely than the wind,
As the mind, to find what will suffice, destroys
Romantic tenements of rose and ice.

In the West, we might call the Tao ‘the Holy Spirit’ if we were religiously inclined. Wallace Stevens, may have assigned it to the ‘blackbird.’
Marge thought the blackbird could be conscience.

13 ways of looking at a blackbird.
we took just one stanza (XII) asking what does this mean to you:
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

Here are some responses:
the interconnectedness – the meaning of movement; the opposite of nothing; a visual sense of one bird who normally is part of a flock.

The problem of artifice:
The bawds of euphony: prostitutes of harmonious sounds—cry out sharply. I don’t think this is from pleasure. The thin men of Haddam… as in the everyday men of Connecticut whose glass coaches are illusions. The Tao Te Ching says, “Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.” (verse 1)

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