Wallace Stevens

Strumming Wallace Stevens

An attempt at reading "The Man with the Blue Guitar" as if were voice-strumming.

American poetry after 1975

American Poetry after 1975
Duke University Press
a special issue of boundary 2
(Volume 36, Number 3, Fall 2009)American Poetry after 1975
Duke University Press
a special issue of boundary 2
(Volume 36, Number 3, Fall 2009)
Paperback - $14.00
[ISBN13 978-0-8223-6719-2]
225 pages

It's entirely on-line via University of Pennsylvania library e-resources under "boundary 2 / Duke University Press Journals":

The Duke University Press page for the book: link.

Charles Bernstein / American Poetry After 1975: Editor’s Note / 1
Jim Rosenberg / Bios / The Logosphere / The Finite-Made Evolver Space /3
Peter Gizzi / Eclogues / 9
Christian Bök / Two Dots Over a Vowel / 11
Lytle Shaw / Docents of Discourse: The Logic of Dispersed Sites / 25
Tracie Morris / Rakim’s Performativity / 49
Jennifer Scappettone / Versus Seamlessness: Architectonics of
Pseudocomplicity in
Tan Lin’s Ambient Poetics / 63
Craig Dworkin / Hypermnesia / 77
Jonathan Skinner / Poetry Animal / 97
Herman Rapaport / A Liquid Hand Blossoms / 105
Kenneth Goldsmith / In Barry Bonds I See the Future of Poetry / 121
Joyelle McSweeney / Disabled Texts and the Threat of Hannah Weiner / 123
Brian Reed / Grammar Trouble / 133
Juliana Spahr / The ’90s / 159
Al Filreis / The Stevens Wars / 183
Nada Gordon / Not Ideas about the Bling but the Bling Itself / 203
Marjorie Perloff / “The Rattle of Statistical Traffic”: Citation and
Found Text in Susan
Howe’s The Midnight / 205
Elizabeth Willis / Lyric Dissent / 229
Tan Lin / SOFT INDEX (OF repeating PLACES, PEOPLE, AND WORKS) / 235
Benjamin Friedlander / After Petrarch (In the Rigging) / 241

- - -

The abstract of my essay:

The Stevens Wars
Al Filreis

What reputation and influence has Wallace Stevens had in the years since 1975? The infamous Stevensean disaffection has tended to prohibit definitive legacy, and yet this, in the end, has been productive, forestalling closed arguments among poetics Lefts and Rights, keeping Stevens's work from theoretical alliances until past the point when such would fix its standing in contestations between, for example, theoretical as distinct from historical approaches. To the extent that Stevens can seem anything to anyone, the legacy is of little impact. The many imitations of Stevens's special rhetoric tend to riff on a single poem or idiomatic stance, quick-take attempts at posing in a particular ironic position, one abandoned as quickly as assumed. Among contemporary poets whose own writing contemplates Stevens's overall position, however, a larger pattern does emerge—two Stevenses. First, a meditative Stevens: unagonistic, verbally ruminative, romantic (but called "postromantic"), a repository of human responses, post-Christian yet lyric—a poet whose verse does not make truculent, discordant claims but rather "eke[s] out the mind," forming "the particulars of sounds." Secondly, a languaged Stevens: theoretical, serial, and nonnarrative, metapoetically radical, sometimes satirical (and antinarrative), always obsessive about the state of poetics and insisting on consciousness of the compositional mode as itself a pressure inducing the poem to be composed—a poet whose middle and late seriatic styles befit rather than reject the cyclonic modernist historical modes adopted early and briefly by Eliot, grandly and insistently by Pound, and later by Williams.

5-page paper on Stevens, yours for just $59.75

As I sat down to compose this note I proimised myself I wouldn't get worked up. Today during some somewhat relevant googling I happened up one of those Term Paper Mill sites. You know the ones. You've been assigned to write about Mercutio's relationship to Romeo and you find on the web that this company will sell you a 5-page paper on said topic. Everyone in academe (on one side of the paper-assigning divide or the other) has pondered this, at least briefly. I always assumed that if one of my students bought a ready-made paper from such an enterprise, I would notice it immediately--either because of the odd and invariably somewhat off-the-point presentation of the argument or because it would be badly argued and poorly written too.

But the price. Here's the kicker. Today, looking for a quick e-text of Stevens's poem "Mozart, 1935" (readers of this blog will know that I am somewhat obsessed with this poem)--I was too lazy at the moment to walk to the shelf for my copy of the book--I found a 5-page paper "interpreting" this poem. The cost: $59.75. I was so chagrined that I was very tempted to buy a copy and then...what?....expose? rail against? these people. What's more, the little summary reading of the poem remarkably resembles my own reading of it (in a book and at least two articles, the latter available online). Is it possible that I would have been buying a hack-job remix of my own article on the poem? (Click on the image above and left for a larger view.)

I think I would have asked for reimbursement from my university-sponsored research fund for this expense. After all, it would have been research. No?

How desperate would a student have to be to use one of these sites?

As Stevens says, "Play the present."

A political Stevens: slogans as contrivance

From Tim Morris, Wallace Stevens: Poetry and Criticism, p. 173.

Stevens: choose just 3 poems

Some readers will remember that a few months ago I was asked by George Lensing to chose just three poems by Wallace Stevens I would most urgently commend to others. A crazy task, but I did it (because I like George, for one thing). A short essay about these three poems will soon be published in the Wallace Stevens Journal. Here is a sneak preview.

Visiting Wallace Stevens

I wrote the preface to a volume of poems inspired by the life and work of Wallace Stevens, edited by Dennis Barone and James Finnegan. Visiting Wallace has just been published and here is a PDF copy of that preface.

Stevens: conserves our cardinal nobilities, thank goodness

Not long ago I re-read John Hollander's short piece on Wallace Stevens for the magazine of the Academy of American Poets.Not long ago I re-read John Hollander's short piece on Wallace Stevens for the magazine of the Academy of American Poets. Hollander's Stevens is culturally conservative - a conservator of "our cardinal nobilities," etc. In essayistically surveying the uses of Stevens after 1975 about a year ago, I wrote a few paragraphs in protest against such a view. I won't quote or summarize that protest here, but I will provide a link to a PDF of the Hollander piece.

Immense dew (Stevens)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to follow the contemporary uses of Wallace Stevens.

Regarding and beholding

Teaching Stevens's "The Snow Man"

Each January, at our "Mind of Winter" event, I lead a communal interpretation of Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man." This year we caught it on video, and here it is.

It's like a new reality, man (PoemTalk #14)

Wallace Stevens, 'Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself'


PoemTalk listeners will want to stick around for the end of this show in particular, when Nada Gordon, a first-time PoemTalker, recites her flarfistic rewriting of Wallace Stevens’ late poem, “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself.” Meantime, of course, we give the poem a good going-through. The talkers this time, beside Nada, are Lawrence Joseph and Charles Bernstein, and we were (for the first time in PoemTalk’s short history) on the road, at Studio 92 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Anyone who deals with this poem has to understand the rhetorical gist of Stevens's “like”: the cry he thinks he hears seemed “like” a sound in his mind; it was “like” a new knowledge of reality. Charles half-jokes that it’s anachronistically (and uncharacteristically) a 1960s like: a cool “very,” an intensifer, a pause. Al tries to stipulate that this is a Keats-at-the-casement poem: he’s inside, looking out and hearing minimal late-winter birdsong. But Larry believes firmly in the radical open-ness of this poem: we are neither inside nor out. There is no conventional place of standing. “Three times in the poem,” Nada has written elsewhere, “he says the sound was coming ‘from outside.’ But I don’t believe him. How can I believe this from a poet whose ‘actual candle blazed with artifice’?”

This was certainly the threesome, too, to say interesting things about the alphabetical “c” that precedes the choir.

Our recording comes from the wonderful collection of recordings at the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard, and we wish to thank Don Share, Christina Davis, Peter Steinberg, and others who have taken such good care of that material. Stevens traveled to Harvard to record this poem on October 8, 1954 (he died in 1955).

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