Strangering

According to Wallace Stevens, “Every poem is a poem within a poem: the poem of the idea within the poem of the words.” We often put “the idea” in a brief phrase: “the evils of war.” We rarely talk about the poetry of the idea. By itself, the theme, the idea, is always banal: it has to be recreated by the poet’s imagination into something animated. (And since the poet at hand is male, I’ll call him “he” in what follows.) And then, how is he to arouse a glow of personal vividness within the language, and create “the poem of the words”?  Suppose the poet wants the “idea” of his poem to be “the disparity of cultures.” What might “the poem of the idea” be? This particular poet’s imaginative move is to locate his two cultures in cosmic space, on two different planets, one of which is Planet Earth.

Thank you for reading!

To continue reading this article you must be a subscriber and be logged in to this site. If you already have a subscription, please log in now.