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Earthy Anecdote

December 12, 2016

Every time the bucks went clattering
Over Oklahoma
A firecat bristled in the way.

Wherever they went,
They went clattering,
Until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the right,
Because of the firecat.

Or until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the left,
Because of the firecat.

The bucks clattered.
The firecat went leaping,
To the right, to the left,
Bristled in the way.

Later the firecat closed his bright eyes
And slept.

Wallace Stevens, 1923

COMMENTARY; This is the first poem in Stevens’ Harmonium and the first poem that usually begins his collected works. Although there is the temptation to allegorize (firecat=individual passion vs. bucks=mob mentality) the poem, as I read it, is no more than than it pretends to be–an “earthy anecdote”–a plainspoken portray of free-flowing motion. The poem does what a good landscape painting does–captures, in sharp stillness, the sudden fleetingness of a dynamic gesture. It does this not only through the unpretentious and judicious word choices (swift, circular line) but also in the chanting music and use of repetions, which gives the lines a swiftness and a circularity and a clattering-ness that performs the chase.


From → Nature, Uncategorized

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