Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"July Mountain"

The Fourth of July was beautiful in Seattle.  "Not a cloud in the sky," save for a few stray puffs to the west over the distant, still-snowy Olympic Mountains.  All else was cornflower blue, blue-green, and green.  At times, things do fall into place.  For a moment.

               July Mountain

We live in a constellation
Of patches and of pitches,
Not in a single world,
In things said well in music,
On the piano, and in speech,
As in a page of poetry --
Thinkers without final thoughts
In an always incipient cosmos,
The way, when we climb a mountain,
Vermont throws itself together.

Wallace Stevens, "Late Poems (1950-55)," Collected Poetry and Prose (Library of America 1997).

                         Charles Sheeler, "Bucks County Barn" (1932)

8 comments:

S R Plant said...

You've said before how Stevens managed to make his poetry both deeper and more accessible later in life (I hope I'm not misrepresenting you!). I think this is a good example of what you describe.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

The last line disturbed my somewhat complete understanding... thanks for sharing.

Bill Sigler said...

Perfection, Mr. Pentz. This beautiful post quite overcomes the horrid weather in the East. As much as I want to pontificate on the meaning of “July Mountain,” the last poem published in Stevens’ lifetime (4/55 in Atlantic Monthly), I have to let it keep its lucid perfection to itself. Suffice it to say that the “new romanticism” William Everson predicted in 1988 to emerge as the “new age” from the post-modernist and modernist programs is perfectly contained in this little gem of a poem. And the Bucks County barn, connecting Stevens’ mountain climbing days with his dreams of an imagined Vermont!

Stephen Pentz said...

As always, thank you for stopping by, and for your thoughts, S R Plant. You are right on the money regarding my views on Stevens's later poetry. And I agree that this is a fine example of his later work. (As you can see from Mr. Sigler's comment above, it turns out that this was the last poem published in Stevens's lifetime.)

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Fredua-Agyeman: thank you very much for visiting and commenting again. As for the final line: in my experience it is par for the course to be puzzled by some of Stevens's verbal flights. I've been reading him for years, and I am still often confounded by exactly what he is getting at, even in poems that I know and love. (This is why an academic industry dedicated to "explaining" Stevens has grown up in the U.S. -- unfortunately.)

Thanks again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Sigler: thank you very much for the information about "July Mountain" being Stevens's last published poem in his lifetime. I knew that it was written very late in his life, but I wasn't aware of that fact.

As for the Bucks County barn: perhaps it fits with Stevens's early years in Pennsylvania in Berks (not Bucks) County.

As ever, thank you for your thoughts.

Mary F. C. Pratt said...

It was a beautiful 4th in Vermont, too. And if Stevens was imagining climbing here, he did it very well.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you for dropping by again, Mary F. C. Pratt, and for the perspective from Vermont.