That Percolate for the Stubborn Mind: Wallace Stevens and a Flannery Original

Before I went back to nursing school I got an English degree from UNC Asheville.

It is an amazingly impractical degree that allowed me to learn tremendous amounts about people, the world, and how to not sound like an idiot while writing. But it ultimately made my brain explode with emotions and I realized I needed to pursue a profession where I could work in the moment and not think deeply about heavy shit too often.

Nowadays, I don’t think too much about my time studying literature, but every once in a while a memory will sneak up out of nowhere.

This morning I was drinking coffee. It was an exceptionally good, mind freeing, enlightening brew. “Didn’t I write a poem about coffee once?” my brain asked me.

In fact I had.

Back in Literature 357: Modern Poetry, one of my assignments had been to write imitation poems: one in each of the styles of the poets we studied. My Wallace Stevens imitation poem featured a stanza about a good cup of coffee.

If you haven’t heard of Wallace Stevens, educate yourself.

wallace-stevens

Yes, he is an old, dead, white guy.

His poetry is complex and challenging. But ultimately never it fails to be sonically striking and get to the heart of exploring some of art’s most important questions about meaning and beauty.

Here are some a few of my favorites:

  1. The Idea of Order at Key West
  2. The Reader
  3. The Place of Solitaires
  4. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird – This last one is the one my imitation is modeled after.

Without further ado here is the poem I wrote in the style of Stevens:

Six Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens

I.

Among Thirty-six austere lines
One finds the union hemlock,
And peacock;
It must be the work of Wallace Stevens.

II.

Three Stevens lines peddling
Bicycles through my mind,
Are three lines, peddling
Three bicycles, through three minds.

III.

Amidst a flashing storm,
Springing fearfully across a green field
She thinks of Wallace Stevens,
But it must have been her imagination.

IV.

That dark whirled cup of ideas, coffee,
Is what one must have.
That percolate for the stubborn mind, that black enlightenment,
Is both a silent requisite for and an embodiment
Of the taste of Stevens.

V.

Hands pressed against the eyes
Causes blue twangs across the mind,
On this backside of the projector
Wallace Stevens resides.

VI.

All day I sat reading Ideas of Order,
Sat reading as if it were an Order.
The colors splashed, the ideas waxed,
But when I closed the book I did not know
When the snow ended and Stevens began.

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