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The Harmony of the Whole Harmonium

The Harmony of the Whole Harmonium

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace StevensThe Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens by Paul Mariani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wallace Stevens was a complex man who wrote complex poetry—and many criticize the man and the poetry as cold and intellectual. From my 1984 masters theses until today, I have found heart and passion and music in Stevens work. Paul Mariani’s biography does a good job of revealing the same in the man and his work.

Yes, Stevens was often boorish, hard to get to know, and sometimes expressed racist and bigoted opinions. Mariani does not shrink from showing that part of the man. But we also see Stevens “at play” in the warmth of the Florida Keys as well as in his poetry.

The analysis and discussion of the poetry is good enough for a biography, allowing for the man to explain the poetry and the poetry to explain the man to some degree. Mariani concludes that Stevens “is among the most important poets of the twentieth and still-young twenty-first century,” placing him with Rilke, Yeats, and Neruda. I would agree in terms of the 20th century while adding three women to the list: Wislawa Symborska, Marianne Moore, and E;Elizabeth Bishop—and I would leave out judgement on the current century except that Steven’s influence certainly has grown wit time.

This is a good biography for both the experienced reader of Stevens and someone wanting to begin to live a bit with the music of Crispin and his poetic islands and cold snow.

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Farewell J. D. McClatchy

Farewell J. D. McClatchy

With great sadness, we acknowledge the passing this week of J. D. McClatchy, the author of eight volumes of poetry, from Scenes from Another Life (1981) to Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (2014). McClatchy—known as “Sandy” to his fellow poets, and to his colleagues in the world of the opera, where he was a highly regarded librettist—was a tireless and brilliant champion of the literary arts. He was the editor or co-editor of dozens of volumes of other writers’ work, including James Merrill, Thornton Wilder, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and long served as editor of The Yale Review. As we send our condolences to Sandy’s husband, Chip Kidd, himself an author and celebrated graphic designer (and our colleague here at Knopf), today’s poem touches on what another poet, Howard Moss, termed “rules of sleep”—the post-midnight customs and early morning road maps known only to the two people in a couple.

Going Back to Bed

Up early, trying to muffle

the sounds of small tasks,

grinding, pouring, riffling

through yesterday’s attacks

or market slump, then changing

my mind—what matter the rush

to the waiting room or the ring

of some later dubious excuse?—

having decided to return to bed

and finding you curled in the sheet,

a dream fluttering your eyelids,

still unfallen, still asleep,

I thought of the old pilgrim

when, among the fixed stars

in paradise, he sees Adam

suddenly, the first man, there

in a flame that hides his body,

and when it moves to speak,

what is inside seems not free,

not happy, but huge and weak,

like an animal in a sack.

Who had captured him?

What did he want to say?

I lay down beside you again,

not knowing if I’d stay,

not knowing where I’d been.

More on this book and author:

• Learn more about Plundered Hearts by J. D. McClatchy.

• Browse other books by J. D. McClatchy.

Visit our Tumblr to share this poem and peruse other poems, audio recordings, and broadsides in the Knopf poem-a-day series.

• To share the poem-a-day experience with friends, pass along this link.

J. D. McClatchy
— Read on x.e.knopfdoubleday.com/ats/msg.aspx

Five of my poems have been published in Issue 4 of The Mystic Blue Review and you can view them Online for free

Five of my poems have been published in Issue 4 of The Mystic Blue Review and you can view them Online for free

Five of my poems have been published in Issue 4 of The Mystic Blue Review and you can view them here: https://themysticbluereview.wixsite.com/litmagazine/issues

Blue Unicorn has accepted my poem “Season of Disgrace” for publication in an upcoming issue.

Blue Unicorn has accepted my poem “Season of Disgrace” for publication in an upcoming issue.

Blue Unicorn has accepted my poem “Season of Disgrace” for publication in an upcoming issue. In 1987, they accepted my poem “Hungry Inside” I am pleased to have y work included again.

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