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Analysis Of Wallace Stevens' "On Modern Poetry"

1102 words - 4 pages

There is something to be said for a man who can look deeply into his profession and define exactly what is that he does. The deaths of many men have passed without a definition of their lives, or a true understanding of what they do. In his poem "On Modern Poetry," Wallace Stevens attempts to define his life's work and his passion. To a poet "On Modern Poetry" serves as both a guidebook and a wonderful example of what makes poetics an amazing art. Stevens uses his talent to explain his talent, taking the reader on a wonderful journey through the process of poem creation, and through the human mind. The aforementioned guidelines that Wallace details in "On Modern Poetry" are dead on and may have shaped the way that poems are created to this day. He captured the true essence of poetics while allowing the reader to continue doing their job, using their mind and their imagination. Stevens weaves a visual path through the job description of a poem and leaves the reader wondering what is said, and how to take it.The journey of poem writing is a perplexing one, especially in the area of method. When Wallace Stevens opens "On Modern Poetry" with the line: "The poem of the mind in the act of finding/What will suffice" (ll. 1-2). He is detailing the struggle to find the right word, the right scheme, or the right time for change. He then follows with: "It has not always had/To find: the scene was set; it repeated what/Was in the script" (ll. 2-4). This is in reference to change and the modernist/imagist view of poetry in the past. This could be taken as a derogatory comment to the simplicity and complacency of past poetry. Regardless, I tend to take it as a comment on the overall state of poetry, a look at the past, but a welcoming of the state of current poetry. The first stanza of the poem simply details the struggles of a changing genre, and uses descriptive diction to do that.One great thing about a poem is that it leaves room for thought, for personal development, and for individual interpretation. Not only does "On Modern Poetry" do those things, but it also tells the reader to do them. "A metaphysician in the dark, twanging/An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives/Sounds passing through a sudden rightnesses, wholly/Containing the mind..." (ll. 20-23). The lines in themselves are perplexing and leave plenty of room for interpretation. But what a reader comes to conclude is that Stevens is suggesting that a poem buries itself within the human mind and plants a seed. The poem acts as a seed to thought, and it exercises the mind on a regular basis. A good poem is one that makes the reader think, and not just about the words, but about themselves and about their mind.The idea of a poem as a performer, be it an actor in a play, or a musician playing an instrument, or a metaphysician playing an instrument is one of particular interest. Stevens uses the metaphor throughout the poem and does so quite well. The duality of the performer as the poet...

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