Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Winter Blogging with The Snow Man

by delicatemonster Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 06:58:42 PM EST

Inspired by recent discussion about Wallace Stevens, and few snow flakes today falling in Richmond, VA, where they are fairly rare, I put together a little snow blogging piece you might enjoy.

With apologies to Wallace Stevens.


One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;




And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter




Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,




Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place





For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
--Wallace Stevens




Display:
No comments is the nothing that is not there or the nothing that is?

Anyway, this is a comment... something or nothing...

Nice diary, delicatemonster, thanks! (Too warm here!)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 08:01:15 AM EST
No comments is the nothing that is not there

(now)

Thanks, afew!

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 11:04:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well timed and very wintery.  Nice pictures!  Did you take some of those after dark?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 11:39:14 AM EST
Thanks. I started shooting right at the end of twilight. For most of the shots I had to use a flash, hence the brightness of the flickering snow.
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 12:10:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice photos of the river.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 01:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Gringo.

I remember your photographs of Merida. My wife and I had visited in August (weatherwise, a little toasty, but still really beautiful) and fell in love with the place. Your photographs brought it all back. They were superb.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 03:22:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks delicate.  We really love Merida for all the history and family memories.  My wife's mother and grandmother were from there and she still has lots of aunts, uncles and cousins living in the city.  We visit every chance we get and would like eventually to establish a home there.  It can be very hot during the Summer, but usually much less so than our part time home in Tabasco.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 09:54:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The more I look at them, the more beguiling those rocks become.  I could get lost there, in better weather (;

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 03:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. Sometimes people do get lost there. This is part of the James River park system in Richmond. A very popular spot called 'Pony Pasture'. In the summer, those rocks are dotted with sun worshippers, local boys bearing pony tails and tattoos, and quite a few hispanic families, some of whom set up kitchens on the banks complete with portable grills, coolers of tostados and meats and drinks, and hammocks strung between the gum trees for siestas afterwards.  
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 03:51:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

That is all far more interesting than "Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." And if the "listener" is "nothing", presumably they can neither listen nor behold - not that we would have missed - anything :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 06:00:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact I prefer Rumsfeld's poetry -it makes a bit more sense :-)

Until now, the secretary's poetry has found only a small and skeptical audience: the Pentagon press corps. Every day, Rumsfeld regales reporters with his jazzy, impromptu riffs. Few of them seem to appreciate it.

But we should all be listening. Rumsfeld's poetry is paradoxical: It uses playful language to address the most somber subjects: war, terrorism, mortality. Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams'. Some readers may find that Rumsfeld's gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as Frank O'Hara's.

And so Slate has compiled a collection of Rumsfeld's poems, bringing them to a wider public for the first time. The poems that follow are the exact words of the defense secretary, as taken from the official transcripts on the Defense Department Web site.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

--Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

http://www.slate.com/id/2081042/



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 06:05:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True 'nuff. Stevens can be a little willfully obscure sometimes, but I think his main idea here is a kind of Zen sense of 'nothingness'--which is  at least partially about emptying one's own mind of presuppositions and illusions of one sort or another. I treat this a little like a Koan.  BTW, no one's ever accused Stevens of excessive clarity :-)
by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 06:28:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A mind without presuppositions is a "mind" without mind :-)

The No Man

This seems to get it right - and without obscurity:

   The really reticent poet of this quintet is Wallace Stevens. His is a reticence which results in determined obscurity, an obscurity of intention as well as an uncertainty of communication. There are, in fact, many pages in `Harmonium' which lead one to doubt whether its author even cares to communicate in a tongue familiar to the reader; he is preoccupied with language as color or contrasting sound-values, scarcely as a medium for registering degrees of emotion. Moreover, what Stevens spreads before us is less like a canvas and more like a color-palette.

  But for the most part, this conscious aesthete `at war with reality' achieves little beyond an amusing preciosity; he luxuriates in an ingeniously distorted world. Even his titles -- which deliberately add to the reader's confusion by having little or no connection with most of the poems -- are typical. . . . For all its word-painting, there is little of the human voice in these glittering lines.

Louis Untermeyer, 1924

http://www.myweb.dal.ca/diepev/3220/Stevens.ppt



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 07:04:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Stevens would like your pun, The No Man, but he might change it to This NOW man or perhaps even better, "This Know Man".

He'd probably also find Louis Untermeyers prudish sentiments about the value of 'conscious aesthetes' an hilariously over the top take down of something he admitted quite openly:"Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully."

For your further edification, here's Stevens' Ars Poetica.

Of Modern Poetry

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
            Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
                It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:43:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I think Stevens would like your pun, The No Man, but he might change it to This NOW man or perhaps even better, "This Know Man".

I'm sure he'd prefer the latter - but hardly merits it - the know "nothing" man ? Or in his words "A metaphysician in the dark" :-)

He'd probably also find Louis Untermeyers prudish sentiments about the value of 'conscious aesthetes' an hilariously over the top take down of something he admitted quite openly:"Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully."

I don't know why Untermeyer's "sentiments" are "prudish". Anyway, how about Edmund Wilson:

"Mr. Wallace Stevens is the master of a style: that is the most remarkable thing about him. His gift for combining words is fantastic but sure: even when you do not know what he is saying, you know that he is saying it well."

"When you read a few poems of Mr. Stevens, you get the impression from the richness of his verbal imagination that he is a poet of rich personality, but when you come to read the whole volume through you are struck by a sort of aridity. Mr. Stevens, who is so observant and has so distinguished a fancy, seems to have emotion neither in abundance nor in intensity."

Nothing prudish there - he'd like some intense emotion - and perhaps also - to know what he's saying - if anything :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 07:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Edmund Wilson might just be onto something, but it's probably still overstated. I'm fairly certain Stevens had emotions in pretty much equal proportions to the rest of us. However, it's true that Stevens struggled to maintain an appropriate 'emotional' distance in his work. His playfulness and irony no doubt help that sense of emotional dryness, as is true for many Post-Modern poets. Try John Ashbury--who was unsurprisingly influenced by Stevens -- if you want to get a real sense of what emotional aridity might mean in a contemporary poem. By comparison, Stevens is a positive water falls.

Of course, an emotional aridity, is not nearly the same thing as "achiev[ing] little beyond an amusing preciosity" so I'm not sure we are dealing with the same criticisms at all. Undermeyer's main gripe is the obscurity of Stevens word play, as I read it: "His is a reticence which results in determined obscurity, an obscurity of intention as well as an uncertainty of communication. There are, in fact, many pages in `Harmonium' which lead one to doubt whether its author even cares to communicate in a tongue familiar to the reader..."

Wilson is complaining about Stevens emotional thinness, but I think he finds Stevens quite lucid ("Knowing") or at least trust that Stevens is actually saying something of note, significantly different (and considerably less disparaging) than Undermeyer's critique..."His gift for combining words is fantastic but sure: even when you do not know what he is saying, you know that he is saying it well."

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 10:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yeah, and kayakers too...

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 06:21:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been an exceptionally mild year in my mountain town in Japan.  There were reports of a bit of snow while I was away for the holidays, but none before or since.  Only for last week has it really been seriously cold.

However, even when it was only moderately cold, it was still cold enough that one of my favorite local pastimes, sitting in front of the local 7-11 on plastic egg crates and drinking beer, has been impossible.

Unless it snows, there is nothing even vaguely picturesque about winter in this area.  It is simply uglier than at any other time of the year, without fail.  Thus, I shall not post any pictures.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 12:55:15 AM EST
Looks lovely.  We got a good snow on Thursday, but nothing since.  It does look like the Potomac froze a bit last night, though, so winter us clearly here.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 12:31:33 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]