Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chaos and Order -- Stevens

An article by Jeff Gordinier, "For Wallace Stevens, Hartford as Muse," in the Travel Section of last Sunday's NY Times gives a gentle introduction to one of my favorite poets; the article also provoked me to escape for an hour into a rereading of selections from my copy of The Collected Poems (Vintage Books, 1990). Poems by Stevens (1879-1955) celebrate ideas and are, like pieces of mathematics, suggestive of a variety of situations. (Work by Stevens was featured in these earlier blog postings: 15 December 2010 (from "The Snow Man"), 4 May 2011 ("The Anecdote of the Jar"), and  13 May 2011 (from "Six Significant Landscapes"). Here, reconciling opposites, are two of the five sections of Stevens' "Connoisseur of Chaos" -- also from The Collected Poems.

from Connoisseur of Chaos     by Wallace Stevens


   A.  A violent order is disorder; and
   B.  A great disorder is an order. These
   Two things are one.  (Pages of illustrations.)


   After all the pretty contrast of life and death
   Proves that these opposite things partake of one,
   At least that was the theory, when bishops' books
   Resolved the world.  We cannot go back to that.
   The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
   If one may say so.  And yet relation appears,
   A small relation expanding like the shade
   Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.

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