Wallace Stevens’s “Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds”: Poeticizing the Imperfect?

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Author: Ikram Hili, University of Monastir, Tunisia
Email: ikram_hili@hotmail.com
Published: June 1, 2018
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.5.1.08

Citation: Hili, I. (2018). Wallace Stevens’s “Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds”: Poeticizing the Imperfect? IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.5.1.08


Abstract

Contradictions and paradoxes are characteristic features of Wallace Stevens’s poetry; these traits prompt judgments of him as a “difficult” poet and of his poems as all but approachable. Among other things, this difficulty in approaching Stevens’s poems may stem from the meta-poetic dimension of poems such as “Of Modern Poetry”, “The Poems of our Climate”, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”, and so on. And yet, Stevens remains one of America’s most remarkable poets, tackling themes pertaining to identity, loss, estrangement, hope, despair and, above all, the intractable paradoxes that inform national life in the United States. In this sense, his poetry presents a recognizable pattern of pairings of real vs. imaginary, reality vs. poetry, history versus art, consciousness of fact versus imagination, and poetry as synonymous with individual freedom versus politics as possibly evolving into a totalitarian system. The issue of the tension between politics and poetry, between an imperfect, bitter reality and a delightful poetic release seems to be a core component of his poetic output.

The objective in this paper is to chart the course of this tension, assess the antagonistic pulls of consciousness and imagination, perfection and imperfection that take place within what Stevens describes as “the never-resting mind”. This is primarily achieved through a reading of “The Poems of our Climate”.

Keywords

poetry, politics, imagination, reality, imperfection, restless mind