Wallace Stevens — Of modern poetry

Wallace Stevens — Of modern poetry


The poem of the mind in the act of finding

What will suffice. It has not always had

To find: the scene was set; it repeated what

Was in the script.

                          Then the theatre was changed

To something else. Its past was a souvenir.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.

It has to face the men of the time and to meet

The women of the time. It has to think about war

And it has to find what will suffice. It has

To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage

And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and

With meditation speak words that in the ear,

In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,

Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound

Of which, an invisible audience listens,

Not to the play, but to itself, expressed

In an emotion as of two people, as of two

Emotions becoming one. The actor is

A metaphysician in the dark, twanging

An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives

Sounds passing through sudden Tightnesses, wholly

Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,

Beyond which it has no will to rise.

                                                      It must

Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may

Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman

Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.