Today’s featured poet is Wallace Stevens (American, 1879-1955), my favorite modern poet. His best-known work is probably “Sunday Morning”, but he wrote many other fine poems. I quoted from the “The Poems of Our Climate” a while back, so it’s only fair to post the entire poem. Its three brief stanzas are admirable for their spareness and economy of diction.
For readers who are interested, other poems by Stevens that are worth examining include “The Idea of Order at Key West”, “The Lack of Repose”, and “Of Mere Being”.
The Poems of Our Climate
by Wallace Stevens
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations — one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.
Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.
There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.