Wallace Stevens Essay, Research Paper
One poet whose work you can really appreciate is
Wallace Stevens. Even though his poetry contains very
complex and lyrical vocabulary and his work is symbolic in
content, a reader can still find ways to really enjoy the
poems. Stevens seems to be almost musical in his work. The
poems I have read pay much attention to the sound and
arrangement of words. On the other hand, I find Steven?s
work to be somewhat bizarre. It is a style of writing that
will confuse the reader. The reader may not understand each
and every poem because he uses such a variety of poetic
techniques. Some of the techniques he uses are alliteration
In reading Robert Wrigley?s work Making Music of Sense
he believes that ?when poetry strays too far from music, it
atrophies?. This of course does not pertain to the works of
Wallace Stevens. One of the most interesting and true
statements is Wrigley?s comment ?And I ought to admit how
many poems there are that I love, whose meaning eludes me,
or defies me, mostly does.? I would have to say that I can
honestly relate to and agree with that statement. This made
me feel better because in reading the selected poems by
Stevens a number of them are enjoyable to read, however; an
easy translation eludes or defies me.
The poem The Emperor of Ice-Cream is one of those poems
which seems like it is more about sounds than it is sense.
Instantly as this poem begins to unfold the reader is drawn
in by the very first lines. Initially you are not sure of
what it means as you read:
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.(1-3)
The lines themselves seem lyrical and in the third line the
reader can be caught up in the poets use of alliteration.
This is because it is almost flowing along like the lyrics
of a song. There are other such lines in the poem where
Stevens uses playful alliteration. He also repeats the
somewhat lighthearted line that ?The only emperor is the
emperor of ice-cream?. After reading the poem over several
times the reader can come to a better understanding and form
his or her interpretation. On the surface the poem is about
the wake of a poor old woman, however; if examined more
deeply the reader could sense a deeper meaning. The very
ordinary commonfolk mourners are not as interested in the
dead woman as they are concerned with their own wants and
desires. There is very little description of the dead woman
thereby denoting her unimportance. On that same note the
ice-cream man?s importance is shown by making him an
emperor. The woman and her surroundings appear to be rather
unpleasant as though they are reminders of the everyday life
of poor people.
The next poem is Nomad Exquisite which is again musical
in nature and elusive to interpretation. This poem seems to
be lyrical without hidden morals or value judgments being
passed along. Stevens? language in this particular poem
uses a variety of poetic techniques such as alliteration,
symbolism, and personification. He also uses various hues
of colors to capture the moment and the beauty of the land.
?The immense dew of Florida? and its land is pure, refreshed
and inspired much as the Nomad himself. This beauty:
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,…(6-9).
In conclusion, the poems of Wallace Stevens draw the
reader in with their lyrical sounds. His poetry is
enjoyable although it can not always be easily interpreted.
I, as a reader, struggled with this idea, but according to
Wrigley: ?…although I?m interested in the gloss, what he
tells me the poem says is never as beautiful as its saying.
Being lost in the sound of it is always better.?