Tag Archives: Wallace Stevens

On Creatively Misreading Peter Cole’s The Invention of Influence

Invention_of_Influence_300_448. . . thinking we know where we’re going and then
getting somewhere, despite our intention.

—Peter Cole, from Actual Angels

I was tempted into reading poet Peter Cole’s book, The Invention of Influence, by a review in Jacket2.  From the get-go, the signs augured that I’d be in well over my head. Cole is, among other things, “a translator of Hebrew and Arabic poetries, modern and medieval” [Jacket 2], about which I know nothing. But I was intrigued by the idea that his work with translation so powerfully informed his poetry—that Cole was, in this sense among others, a Pasternakian sponge:

[Cole] practices writing as a form of translation, as a “being between” fixed places, with the poet as a transponder, not an orator, a conduit, not a usurper.” [Jacket 2]

I don’t have “proper” receptors for understanding this book of poems, but I’m attracted by its ideas and methods and impelled to attempt to “make it mine.” Here are three examples of my admittedly peculiar process. Continue reading

Just Skating Around Eliot’s Four Quartets

four-quartetsIt is this madness to explain. . . .
—John Ashbery, The Skaters (I)

The thermometer reads 5 degrees; goldfinches hang from the feeder, juncos peck at seeds on the ground. I wonder at their ability to stay warm in this weather. I know there’s a scientific explanation, but I don’t need one: it’s enough to witness it. Continue reading

Skating Above The Ice

a Hudson View P1059933_edited-1

Today I wrote, “The spring is late this year.
In the early mornings there is hoarfrost on the water meadows.
And on the highway the frozen ruts are papered over with ice.”

The day was gloves.

How far from the usual statement
About time, ice—the weather itself had gone.

—John Ashbery (from The Skaters, IV)

In his Berlin story, Something About the Railway, Robert Walser wrote, “Nowadays, anywhere there is nature, trains are also found.” How true it is: almost all along its route, the best views of the Hudson between New York City and Poughkeepsie are from the train, not by foot. But there’s one place near to us where anyone on foot can have the ne plus ultra of views, weather permitting, of course. Continue reading

Fall and All

Late September, Buttercup Farm

Late September, Buttercup Farm

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

—Wallace Stevens (from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird)

Stevens was a master of autumn. (Spring, he didn’t like so much, it seems.) Last year, in my Autumn Thoughts post, I quoted from Stevens’s An Ordinary Evening in New Haven. This year, ModPo is again in session, and the “leaves in whirlings” passage from An Ordinary Evening came to mind as I thought about Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the Stevens poem discussed in the course. Continue reading

Invective Against Swan(n)s

Swan P5073985_edited-1

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

—Wallace Stevens, from Invective against Swans

After a visit to the Morgan Library earlier this year, I set myself the task of re-reading Proust’s Swann’s Way. I have read Proust’s entire magnum opus once with a certain amount of satisfaction (though I’ll confess to having commented at one point that Proust could have used an editor), but it seemed time to start again. (No need to rush, as copyright laws in the U.S. mean the last three volumes of this edition will not be available here until 2019—“longer than Proust’s original public had” to wait—about which I have no comment.) Continue reading