Pohjola’s Daughter and Other Wonders of the World

Esa-Pekka Salonen

With thanks to David Nice for identifying this wonderful performance. For more on Sibelius’s Pohjola’s Daughter, click here.

In the realm of poetry, from Al Filreis and the ModPo folk, I was introduced today to one of many Wallace Stevens poems I’d never heard of, “So-And-So Reclining on Her Couch.” Here’s an excerpt that I found tantalizing (though you may not):

The suspension, as in solid space,
The suspending hand withdrawn, would be
An invisible gesture. Let this be called

Projection B. To get at the thing
Without gestures is to get at it as
Idea. She floats in the contention, the flux

Between the thing as idea and
The idea as thing. She is half who made her.
This is the final Projection C.

Here, Hilton Als explains it all to you, quite brilliantly.

And if the poem still eludes your grasp (rest assured you are not alone), here’s a delightful discussion on “What You Can Do if You Feel Your Reading of a Poem is Wrong” that IMHO, gives each of us as readers permission to respond to the poem however we might wish.

Bonus “Track”: Jean Piaget sitting in his home office, 1979

2 thoughts on “Pohjola’s Daughter and Other Wonders of the World

  1. Curt Barnes

    Terrific and provocative post! I’d long assumed that prose invited group discussion but that poetry was a solitary experience: lying in the grass, reading from a thin volume on a breezy hillside, etc. Recently it occurred to me that I had it exactly reversed. One can read most fiction unaided, it is immersive, a dialogue between reader and author, usually has ample resources within to provide ample understanding. It’s poetry reading that can be advantageously collaborative, a group experience. I’d dropped out of Al’s course but noticed a friend (who knows you via the Internets—Roger M) had not only flourished in that but joined another, much (!) smaller poetry reading group and was enjoying sharing reactions to a wide range of poems. Some of the other members were ex-professors, but by no means all. You can read as individuals, but then compare notes, and others can add to your own understanding in a very organic way. When you return, alone, to the poem, you bring whatever was useful from the discussion in the most natural, non-academic way. I’m impatient with groups, so Google can often offer substitutes: well-known poems (e.g. Stevens’ Key West or Emperor of Ice Cream, Hopkins’ Windhover) are often interpreted on the net by literari in plain, simple English. It’s all good!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: Love this comment in so many ways. I, too, am impatient with groups, so enjoy best listening in after the fact (in David’s course, there are so many highly accomplished people who, with prodding from David, chime in; I learn from all of them). I thought that Stevens poem, BTW, was really over the top. I have no conception of what was in HIS head, but I do enjoy his ongoing rumination about ideas and things, which I like to think is an ongoing argument with William Carlos Williams.

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