I do not know which to prefer,That is from ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,’ by Wallace Stevens. Stevens is a poet I’ve returned to recently; I read a lot of his work in college on assignments for classes, but for those assignments, read quickly and cursively. There was also a feeling then, and I’m really only aware of this now, that I didn’t understand him very well. Then, I thought it was an intellectual problem, that I wasn’t capable of solving puzzles in the poetry. Now I think it is more an emotional issue, that with time I’ve learned more about big things – love, life, and so on – that enables a deeper understanding.
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Stevens’s life is fascinating, a man not well known for poetry until late in life though a successful businessman in insurance, supposedly a mild life lived in Hartford, but mild only in the surface details: his poetry exposes a deep passion for life and his obituary reveals an interesting man. I think I was first preoccupied with his life – a vain indulgence I still take when first reading a writer – and read the poetry as the output of an insurance executive; clearly, a narrow approach.
There’s also a story, ‘A Father’s Story’ by Andre Dubus, (featured in Selected Stories) that I’m waiting to read again later in life, all for an argument at the end of the story between the speaker and God, that when I read it in college, I couldn’t understand. With all the attention on In The Bedroom, based on Dubus’s ‘Killings,’ I was inspired to go back to ‘A Father’s Story’ and see if I was any closer to understanding; I wasn’t.