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Monday, 5 April 2010

Wallace Stevens: Disappearance


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File:Farming near Klingerstown,  Pennsylvania.jpg





To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; nor as if they had been overcome by other gods of greater power and profounder knowledge. It is simply that they came to nothing. Since we have always shared all things with them and have always had a part of their strength and, certainly, all of their knowledge, we shared likewise this experience of annihilation. It was their annihilation, not ours, and yet it left us feeling that in a measure we, too, had been annihilated. It left us feeling dispossessed and alone in a solitude, like children without parents, in a home that seemed deserted, in which the amical rooms and halls had taken on a look of hardness and emptiness. What was most extraordinary is that they left no mementoes behind, no thrones, no mystic rings, no texts either of the soil or of the soul. It was as if they had never inhabited the earth. There was no crying out for their return. They were not forgotten because they had been a part of the glory of the earth. At the same time, no man ever muttered a petition in his heart for the restoration of those unreal shapes. There was always in every man the increasingly human self, which instead of remaining the observer, the non-participant, the delinquent, became constantly more and more all there was or so it seemed; and whether it was so or merely seemed so still left it for him to resolve life and the world in his own terms.






Wallace Stevens: from Two or Three Ideas, a lecture on Baudelaire's La Vie Anterieure, given at Mt. Holyoke College, April 28, 1951 (in Collected Poetry and Prose, 1997)

Farming near Klingerstown, Pennsylvania: photo by Scott Bauer, 2005 (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

18 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Beautiful -- I've never seen this, thank you. Reminds me a bit of this passage from Heidegger's Parmenides we came upon last week --

The point is rather that the “away” of the withdrawn comes into presence itself in the essence of the withdrawal. The “away” of what is withdrawn and concealed is surely not “nothing,” for the letting disappear that withdraws everything occurs in this place -- in this place alone -- and presents itself there. The place is void -- there is nothing at all that is ordinary in it. But the void is precisely what remains and what comes into presence there. The barrenness of the void is the nothing of the withdrawal. The void of the place is the look that looks into and “fills” it. The place of lethe is that “where” in which the uncanny dwells in a peculiar exclusivity. The field of lethe is in a preeminent sense, “demonic.”

TC said...

Steve,

That sense of being in a site of withdrawal does echo the underlying melancholy of absence in the Stevens lecture.

One can't but wonder what those Mount Holyoke girls might have made of it.

Stevens begins with a commentary on the line from Fleurs du Mal,

J'ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques

"It is as if we had stepped into a ruin and were startled by a flight of birds that rose as we entered..."

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thought I left a comment here yesterday (something about this Stevens which I'd never seen before, and about how TW's photos of the ocean "across the pond" look something like what I'd seen paddling out the day before (into the channel), plus poem (4.5) 'recording' ('transcribing') some of that -- wonder what happened (gremlins in the machine?)

4.5

first grey light in sky above still dark
ridge, white edge of moon through leaves
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

continuum as field of space
analogous to, concept

determined or together with,
ideas, physical point

clouds on horizon to the left of point,
whiteness of wave in windblown channel

TC said...

[Steve -- now this IS weird...funny things happening with the comments here e'er since recent gremlin hijinks -- ? -- there have been mysterious "disappearances" -- anyway here is your "disappeared" comment:]


STEPHEN RATCLIFFE has left a new comment on your post "Wallace Stevens: Disappearance":

Tom,

Beautiful -- I've never seen this, thank you. Reminds me a bit of this passage from Heidegger's Parmenides we came upon last week --

The point is rather that the “away” of the withdrawn comes into presence itself in the essence of the withdrawal. The “away” of what is withdrawn and concealed is surely not “nothing,” for the letting disappear that withdraws everything occurs in this place -- in this place alone -- and presents itself there. The place is void -- there is nothing at all that is ordinary in it. But the void is precisely what remains and what comes into presence there. The barrenness of the void is the nothing of the withdrawal. The void of the place is the look that looks into and “fills” it. The place of lethe is that “where” in which the uncanny dwells in a peculiar exclusivity. The field of lethe is in a preeminent sense, “demonic.”



Posted by STEPHEN RATCLIFFE to TOM CLARK at 5 April 2010 08:08

TC said...

[and here was my posted reply, another "disappearance":]

TC has left a new comment on your post "Wallace Stevens: Disappearance":

Steve,

That sense of being in a site of withdrawal does echo the underlying melancholy of absence in the Stevens lecture.

One can't but wonder what those Mount Holyoke girls might have made of it.

Stevens begins with a commentary on the line from Fleurs du Mal,

J'ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques

"It is as if we had stepped into a ruin and were startled by a flight of birds that rose as we entered..."



Posted by TC to TOM CLARK at 5 April 2010 08:26

TC said...

"Pluto definitely tore down the signs, outraged at neither being Goofy or a planet."

[Possible Goofy-forensics "explanation" of the "disappearance"??]


(Thanks to Inspector Otto...)

Anonymous said...

How interesting. And the idea of Lethe to explore: what is the difference between that which is lost and that which is hidden? Both are not available to us.

The first, though, puts me in mind of thermodynamic entropy: when a system is unwound, we have no way of rediscoving "information" about its previous state. It is "lost" to us.

But in information theory, entropy is used to "hide" or encrypt information, so it may be accessed at a future time. The information is disordered and looks lost.

But it is not. It is waiting for its key.

Underworld river Lethe had a conterpoint in Mnemosyne's pool. Those who drank from the pool would remember "all." And Mnemosyne looks to have been the mother of the Muses.

I cannot say, for myself, that the gods are dispelled.

Surely, amidst all those ruins, we might find "mementoes": perhaps the memory of our own fingers digging through the rubble is the key.

Glorious Stevens and commentary. Thank you.

TC said...

Ay, Caramba, Anon!

So far the suspects in this mysterious case of comment disappearances includes:

Goofy

Pluto

The ghost of Wallace Stevens

The gremlins

Stephen (whose comments keep disappearing)

me (but I'm still scratching my head as to the motive, though I suppose a "sleepwalking" theory might be relevant)

Alice Notley (she was the trivia question answer, after all; but then again, why would she wish to steal her own glory?)

Charon (bored with steering that punt full of groaning and complaining souls through the underworld -- we recall Jonson's "Famous Voyage" through the London sewers, e'en fouler than the heavy going in Kanal)

Mnemosyne (exacting her indirect revenge upon the narrowminded publishers who rejected Nabokov's attempt to write her into the title of his memory book?)

And now we come to the prime suspect: you, Anon, the god who has neither been dispelled nor disappeared. A helpful god, who will ease us through this blocked drain passage. A divinity transform'd into the Charon of our Aporia, though your pole be coated in dubious matter, propelling us ever onward into Forgetfulness of what we have said.

I deduce thusly: who else but the Disappearer would possess this knowledge:


"The first, though, puts me in mind of thermodynamic entropy: when a system is unwound, we have no way of rediscoving "information" about its previous state. It is "lost" to us.

"But in information theory, entropy is used to "hide" or encrypt information, so it may be accessed at a future time. The information is disordered and looks lost.

"But it is not. It is waiting for its key."

I can feel the key coming toward us, Anon, almost make out its silvery glints through the obfuscating gloom of the underworld, as it turns in your hands.

Or was that a blizzard?

TC said...

Thunderation, Anon.

A further thought has just struck and left me reeling.

You don't suppose... no... surely not...

the werewolf?

TC said...

(...and what is that baleful howling in the dark, from across the moors?)

Anonymous said...

Oh but Dr., we need to balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination.

You will notice that I left the "u" out of "counterpoint" in my analysis, above.

A coincidence? I think not.

Because unless we are all addled here(and i'll cop to that, but nothing else), we must admit that it was YOU who had both the motive and opportunity to effectuate the disappearance of the comments.

It is the perfect crime. You would never have suspected yourself. And it is said that there is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you.

This case was so tough for me, I couldn't even tell a crime had been committed. I could see all the comments all along, even on the other posts, and was wondering what was up with all of you guys.

Delightful fun.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Oh my, maybe it was one of those fabled hackers, somewhere in some far off land, maliciously intent upon infiltrating what's going on here ? ? ? (I just received another comment after the poem I posted yesterday in Chinese, w/ something of it translated into English, and when I clicked to see what else it said, a picture of two people staring at each other across a table came up, at which point I erased it (having been told that such things might be from "robots" in the system bent on evil doings . . . (?)

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Here's what that mysterious Chinese 'comment' (translated) said (it's now shown up in my email) --

"It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others."

what to does it 'mean' (? ? ?)

TC said...

Steve,

Fortune cookie spam from the Underworld, I surmise.


As to the mystery of the vacationing comments, it seems the phantom hackers from space have given back what they had taken away.

Putting one in mind of Anon's comment:

"But in information theory, entropy is used to "hide" or encrypt information, so it may be accessed at a future time. The information is disordered and looks lost.

"But it is not. It is waiting for its key."


(Mnemosyne chides, "so you wasted your whole morning yesterday on nothing.")

TC said...

Steve,

Just when I thought the missing comment mystery was a thing of the past, that last comment mysteriously disappeared. And then fifteen minutes later came back. Probably just as a tease. I'm getting amusement park flashbacks from the 1940s.

Anon's entropy theory continues to hang in the air over the rich godless human wealth of the Elysian fields of W. Stevens.

I don't know, could it be time to heed Klaatu's Message?

aditya said...

I felt good after having read this.

Reminds me of:

"Let there be a single old man here below, calm and fine, surrounded
by 'unknown luxury' - and I shall kneel at your feet.'"

--- Arthur Rimbaud.

Lucy in the Sky said...

"like children without parents..." Like wandering barks without stars... adrift... and yet, we can grasp the steering wheel ourselves and sail.

TC said...

Being left to our own devices, "here below" -- freedom, luxury, responsibility, obligation, test?

Fact, in any case.

I suspect however that there may linger a different set of gods whose power over us is as yet difficult to perceive because it is invisible and all-embracing; the gods of technology I mean.

Aditya, Lucy, brave poet friends show the way into a future that remains unknown.