Of Modern Poetry

BY WALLACE STEVENS

of-modern-poetryThe poem of the mind in the act of finding   

What will suffice. It has not always had   

To find: the scene was set; it repeated what   

Was in the script. 

                               Then the theatre was changed   

To something else. Its past was a souvenir. 

.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.   

It has to face the men of the time and to meet   

The women of the time. It has to think about war   

And it has to find what will suffice. It has   

To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage   

And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and 

With meditation, speak words that in the ear,   

In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat, 

Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound   

Of which, an invisible audience listens, 

Not to the play, but to itself, expressed 

In an emotion as of two people, as of two   

Emotions becoming one. The actor is 

A metaphysician in the dark, twanging 

An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives   

Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly   

Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,   

Beyond which it has no will to rise. 

                                                      It must 

Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may 

Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman   

Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

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