Friday, December 30, 2011
"To and Fro" Zen: Stevens in the Snow
Forty years ago, when I was writing poems regularly--many of them accepted, and published, by some “little magazine”--I read other poets assiduously, and I soon realized my own verbal biases:
But recently I took another look at Stevens and realized he was sometimes light and lyric, good fun when not grandly philosophical. Brevity is
As evidence, and in recognition of the season’s two Januses frozen in midwinter stasis, I offer two brief Stevens poems, the first complete, the other excerpted to make the point cogently…
The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter
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
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.
* * * * *
from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
No false hope, but no despair--resignation, and a recognition of human alone-ness; so…
Have a good year. It’s yours to create… reclaim… occupy… take back.