Monday, June 04, 2007

#8: magnify

"Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison with imagination applied to a detail." - Wallace Stevens

Consider the fork, and the teeth.


Andrew Shields said...

Great quotation, great poem.

Rob said...

Yes, terrific poem.

I was reading earlier today about Baudelaire, about how he conformed to Samuel Johnson's formulation that "the business of a poet is to examine, not the individual, but the species, to remark general properties and large appearances; he does not number the streaks of the tulip or describe the different shades in the verdure of the forest..."

Of course, the modern poet does the opposite. He/she sets out to number the streaks of the tulip, and by examining miniature detail, to say something new about the world.

So, yes, I think Stevens speaks for modern poetry. But perhaps writing from universals, as in Baudelaire's allegories, is more counter-cultural and distinctive in today's world.

I tend to write with the Simic/Stevens model myself. I am a product of my time. But the quote has made me think about how easily we make laws out of fashionable conventions, which surely exist partly so that they can be broken.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Big yes to the Simic piece. And I like the Stevens'. Thanks for both.

SarahJane said...

Thanks - I like the Simic poem a lot, too. I've added another.
Rob - interesting contrast there. (And what an example - the tulip's streaks.) I lean also to the Stevens' quote, and imagine that in focusing on the detail, we imagine the whole.

Related Posts with Thumbnails