Sunday, April 03, 2016

Elusive master …

 on The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens by Paul Mariani (Simon & Schuster) | On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Ron Slate (GD).
In The Whole Harmonium, the critics’ remarks stand out perhaps because Mariani as gatekeeper can’t call up quite enough enthusiasm for the man or his poems. His readings of the poems throughout are prosaic, narrow, unresonant and usually too long.

The Lyrical Executive.
While Mr. Mariani’s “Whole Harmonium” bills itself as “The Life of Wallace Stevens,” it too is a literary life, focusing primarily on the “places” of Steven’s poetry. For Stevens, nature may be the result of an impersonal force—thus, little more than the “meaningless plunging of water and the wind”—but when transformed by the imagination it could become a “deepening, enchanting night.” Stevens’s question was how to account for the imagination without invoking a God that he regarded for most of his life as “the last distortion of romance.” His search for an answer, as Mr. Mariani shows, would result in his greatest poems and eventually lead him to a new understanding of the divine.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

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