The end goal of poetry
It is possible, possible, possible. It must
Be possible. It must be that in time
The real will from its crude compoundings come,
Seeming at first, a beast disgorged, unlike,
Warmed by a desperate milk. To find the real,
To be stripped of every fiction except one,
The fiction of an absolute — Angel,
Be silent in your luminous cloud and hear
The luminous melody of proper sound.
Wallace Stevens — Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction
It was a well-read, worn at the edges book. With stains on some pages and scribbled notes here and there. Exactly looking as the one in a picture above. I saw it in a Salvation Army store in Passaic, New Jersey. It was only for a buck, so I bought it. I was about twenty years old and could only afford used books from there. All the books at that Salvation Army store were a dollar only, and I was able to build quite an eclectic collection. But I think I bought this book for no other reason than because of the title. And the fact that I wanted to have another book in my possession. I wasn’t a big fan of poetry — rather of song lyrics with meaning. Which actually might be the same except for, you know, the music as a background. I had no clue who Wallace Stevens was. My knowledge of American literature was on par with an average student in an average high school in an average state. Which is not a good endorsement of local districts’ boards of education. My command of English was fine for day-to-day communication and to be almost an outstanding student. As it happened, as I started to read this book, I realized it was also enough for modernist American poetry. Soon after I read this book, I went on a binge of reading nothing else but poetry. From Emily Dickinson to Charles Bukowski, with everything in between — including even Ezra Pound. I started to write poems myself. Of course…. Of many hundreds of poems I wrote at that time, there was only one I actually liked enough to share with others. It was about the fall of the Venetian Republic to Napoleon’s army at the end of the XVIII century — as seen from a nearby estate in the countryside. This poem and its subject were niche and precious. I was very precious then as well. But I was proud of what I wrote, even if no one else seemed appreciative or understanding.
I lost this poem, together with all my other written works (everything was handwritten in the notebooks) and all my drawings and paintings and most of my material possessions, on the side of the country road in rural Virginia in 1995. In a car fire. The car fire that I started by myself. On purpose. With all my possessions in the said car, only a backpack with a couple of t-shirts was left to my name then.
It was a really rural area; the car burned for an hour at least. No cars came by as it was happening. There were no fire sirens in the distance. After a while, I just shrugged off and walked ahead. It took me most of the day to get to some resemblance of a civilization — a gas station on the outskirts of Harrisonburg, Virginia. I found a trucker there who agreed to give me a ride to Washington, D.C. But that is a whole other story I might tell some other time.
The point here and today is the poetry. The poetry that I neglected terribly over the last twenty years. Well, poetry was only one of MANY things I neglected over the years. But it comes back to me. With short snippets, with short quotes of poems I find in other books where they are used as mottos or chapter breaks. I am searching for poems once again. The poems I remember from that time in the early 1990s. But I also let myself explore more, not only American or English poetry. All that is with no plan. Just jumping from a book to book, from a page to page, from a verse to a verse. I am searching again. Searching for the beauty and the absolute. Or the beauty of the absolute. The absolute in the meaning of Wallace Stevens from the beginning of this post. Undescribable even by the most talented poets with the best words and rhythm and cadence. But easily noticeable in between the stanzas, in those thoughts and spaces intentionally left blank and unspoken.