Today marks the 137th birthday of Wallace Stevens. I cannot claim that I understand his work, but I am swooped into his colorful aesthetic world of gorgeous peacocks and bananas and colorful language and sound-effects. He’s a poet of jollity and melancholy. He’s a poet of range and arrangement. He’s a poet of euphony and cachinnations. He’s a poet of sensuous and sensual arousings and carousings.
I cannot explicate the pleasures of Stevens for you if you do not get them at once. Imagine you are in an exciting art museum full of canvases splashed with color amidst some that are solemn and thoughtfully grey and cerebral. That is Stevens. You may not understand it all, but it’s exciting especially if you allow yourself to enjoy the experience. And in the museum there is a zoo of colorful animals living an active life of grooming and bellowing and making mating displays.
Here’s a taste of Stevens: “Tinsel in February,” “Mrs. Alfred Uruguay,” “Tom-tom, c’est moi,” “apostrophes are forbidden on the funicular,” “Old pantaloons, duenna of the spring!,”,”In the Clear Season of Grapes,” “Soupe Aux Perles: Health-o, when ginger and fromage bewitch”, “Dezembrum,” A sunny day’d complete Poussiniana,” “Jot these milky matters down,” “The plum survives its poems,” “The moonlight / Fubbed the girandoles,” “Floral Decorations for Bananas,” “Gloomy grammarians in golden gowns.”
Yes, it is not great to take things out of context but these brief snippets of Stevens will, I hope, convince you that entering his glittery and giddy world can be a pleasure.