Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tehuantepec, Revisited

Wallace Stevens, his 1923 Harmonium.

When 'Sea Surface Full Of Clouds' measures-off a visual re-apprehension over 5 sections in four pages.

Phrases travel thus, in parallels among the sections, showing interaction between the water and the viewer's interpretation:

From rosy chocolate and gilt umbrellas
To chop-house chocolate and sham umbrellas;
Further, in continuing parallel, to porcelain chocolate and pied umbrellas.
Then, to musky chocolate and frail umbrellas,
Finally Chinese chocolate and large umbrellas.

Poaching on beauty carries a purgatorial sentence. Read the entire poem, of course. Absorb it. The point is that such writing, such witnessing, isn't merely a rich and eccentric description. Not just, no.


No one I've ever known in my widest acquaintance had, or had ancestral memory of, yachting off Mexico during the Harding era. Stevens had such access and likely a social orientation to match. But what he's presenting isn't a position in society, still less a hedonistic gloating, the value of the scene in USD.

His aesthetic balance gets defined. It's not a vulgar having or enjoying that's at stake. It's the human imagining. He's able to attain literal -- not allegorical -- visions. And what's arrived at and held onto is a reality, a situating of oneself in the moment that shifts around, as all moments do.

If this were music, we'd understand the modulations.

We compose our world.



  1. Your analysis is as beautiful as the author's writing. It is a wondrous thing to find those with enough depth to seize the moment and appreciate it in genuine context.

  2. AskCherlock has given you the Best Blogger award! You have been a wonderful find with your enriching insights.

  3. Readers like you bring out the best. It's good to find response

    It helps to be pseudonymous. A sense of 'utter freedom'. Sometimes 'squibs' work, sometimes longer pieces. The Larkin and Stevens 'appreciations' come from reimmersion in my university love of poetry.

    Thank you for your kindness!