10 March 2005

reading those moderns

The National Poetry Almanac is celebrating "groundbreaking poetry books" this month, and on March 5th, they named Harmonium by Wallace Stevens, which happened to be on the shelf, and I happen not to have read it since I was eighteen and certifiably psychotic. Here are the first two poems. I often wonder how much Stevens and Plath contributed to my psychosis in those days.

1. Earthy Anecdote

Every time the bucks went clattering
Over Oklahoma
A firecat bristled in the way.

Wherever they went,
They went clattering,
Until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the right,
Because of the firecat.

Or until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the left,
Because of the firecat.

The bucks clattered.
The firecat went leaping,
To the right, to the left,
Bristled in the way.

Later, the firecat closed his bright eyes
And slept.

2. Invective Against Swans

The soul, O ganders, flies beyond the parks
And far beyond the discords of the wind.

A bronze rain from the sun descending marks
The death of summer, which that time endures

Like one who scrawls a listless testament
Of golden quirks and Paphian caricatures,

Bequeathing your white feathers to the moon
And giving your bland motions to the air.

Behold, already on the long parades
The crows anoint the statues with their dirt.

And the soul, O ganders, being lonely, flies
Beyond your silly chariots, to the skies.

[my bolding]

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