The Collected Poems [ePub]

by Wallace Stevens

i fell in love with two men in my undergrad senior seminar. it was on wallace stevens and t.s. eliot.

the way i loved both of these writers hurt. (i'll set eliot aside for another time).

stevens kills me when he uses very innocent symbols - making ice cream, in "the emperor of ice cream", for instance - to offset the tragedy that's occurring. front-loaded with the promise of the sugar stuff, it seems like the poem will go somewhere happy, maybe to a coming of age resolultion.

but it's not that simple. everything wallace does gets so much darker. when you find out why the ice cream is being made, what it's for, everything changes. and it's something that's resonated in my skull since the day i read it. when i teach this poem to students in my undergrad class, they struggle. they struggle for entire class periods. and when i explain it, they look as if they've been punched.

wallace turns the reader into a puzzle solver. each word is a piece and even if the pieces appear to fit one way, you must do a bit of thinking before you can begin to understand the picture that's really unfolding. it's an incredible skill. it still awes me.

my two favorite pieces from this collection were obviously "the emperor of ice cream" and the other was "the idea of order at key west" which i think i loved so much because it reminded me of the end of "the love song of j. alfred prufrock" by eliot. the sea, the singing, the questions posed - but i think that's up to the reader to figure out.

regardless, i love this collection. i deeply love this collection.

05.09.2010

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