Monday, October 13, 2014
Expansive Poetics - 123 (Wallace Stevens)
[Wallace Stevens ( 1879-1955)]
AG: Wallace Stevens is a great poet, but metrically not that interesting, I don't think, philosophically interesting, so as a tiny little sample of Wallace Stevens, I just took one very late poem (from The Rock), when he was an old man - he was a friend of (William Carlos) Williams and he wrote the introduction to Williams' first book…first Collected Poems [Collected Poems, 1921-1931, published by the Objectivist Press in 1934].
- called "Lebensweisheitspielerei" - does anybody know German? - "Lebensweisheitspielerei"
Student: Life..Life…"Leben" is life and "Spiel" is play.
AG: So "Weisheit" ? what is Weisheit?… Life's true game.. Life's true play.. Life's true plot.
(I never knew that)
Student: Play, game, play..
AG: Life's true play - It is a poem that would be worthy of (William) Burroughs' implacable benevolent attentive indifference -
Weaker and weaker, the sunlight falls
In the afternoon. The proud and the strong
Those that have left are the unaccomplished,
The finally human ,
Natives of a dwindled sphere.
Their indigence is an indigence
That is an indigence of the light,
A stellar pallor that hangs on the threads.
Little by little, the poverty
Of autumnal space becomes
A look, a few words spoken.
Each person completely touches us
With what he is and as he is,
In the stale grandeur of annihilation.
That's a really solid thought. Very beautiful. Because that's really what it feels like when you get older. "Each person…" - You notice, all the bullshit gets stripped away. What's left is "the unaccomplished" (because everything fails, in a sense, "everything turns to skeleton, ash and bone", as (Jack) Kerouac noticed - "Those that are left are the unaccomplished/, The finally human" - recognizing their own flesh and bone and mortality - "Natives of a dwindled sphere" - Libby (sic), at the age of fifty, might have many children and be an absolutely hearty, happy "native of a dwindled sphere".
Student (Libby) : I'll be living in utopia
AG: That might be your utopia - "Their indigence" - that is, their lack of revolutionary spirit..let us (say) - "Their indigence is the indigence.." - which is the indigence of the life itself, of actual existence - "A stellar pallor that hangs on the threads" - "stellar" from stars - (a) pallor that hangs on the threads"- like life hanging on the thread of stars, of actual stars - stars have small light (In fact, I was reading Heraclitus today, and Heraclitis said that, if it were not for the sun, the stars would not be able to overcome the dark) - "Little by little" the poverty/ Of autumnal (end-of-the-year) space - "the poverty of autumnal space becomes/A look, a few words spoken" - at the most the inner poverty, the most intense communication is just "a look (and) a few words spoken", like old people that have been married for fifty years really know each other and tell volumes in a single glance - "Each person completely touches us/ With what he is and as he is" - so you finally see people stripped off their own projections and your own and stripped of the projection of immortality- "In the stale grandeur of annihilation" - "stale", because you get the musk of the tomb coming out of it, as well as (that) it's an old familiar awareness that comes back - "grandeur", because it's vast, the place is vast, I mean the space we're in is vast.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-seven-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-one-and-a-half minutes in]