Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bishop and Stevens - and white night-gowns

When I stumble upon a poet who inspires, I like to share his or her work with others. Lately I have been reading a lot of Elizabeth Bishop back to back with Wallace Stevens. An odd pairing to say the least and most certainly ironic to be reading simultaneously; yet I find that for as much as Bishop uses precision in her word selection, it is Steven's meditative poetry that I keep coming back to.
I love structure, as an artist I find that structure is probably my most powerful medicine, however, what I love about Steven's writing is that somehow he has a still point within his free flowing poetry. As if the essence of the poem is a storm passing through, he has managed to hold the calm center down, keeping it tethered to the earth. Perhaps he is so much in control that he is able to allude to the images while remaining with the core. Elizabeth Bishop, god bless her was a real stickler for finding the right words, terms, verbs, adjectives and colors and that is so much what I admire about her as a writer. I have read stories about how she would be gathered with fellow writers, searching for the perfect word for one single line of poetry night after night. If you ask me, that is true dedication to your craft. I take from both poets something different, the discipline and the ability to allow the poem to come through you.

Disillusionment Of Ten O'clock by Wallace Stevens

The houses are haunted

By white night-gowns.

None are green,

Or purple with green rings,

Or green with yellow rings,

Or yellow with blue rings.

None of them are strange,

With socks of lace

And beaded ceintures.

People are not going

To dream of baboons and periwinkles.

Only, here and there, an old sailor,

Drunk and asleep in his boots,

Catches Tigers

In red weather.

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