There are quite a few magnolia trees in my neighborhood. At this time of year, the large, furry buds begin to emerge. Wallace Stevens mentions yet-to-awaken magnolias in the following poem -- one of his wonderful late poems, written in his seventies. It is set in "the pre-history of February."
Long and Sluggish Lines
It makes so little difference, at so much more
Than seventy, where one looks, one has been there before.
Wood-smoke rises through trees, is caught in an upper flow
Of air and whirled away. But it has been often so.
The trees have a look as if they bore sad names
And kept saying over and over one same, same thing,
In a kind of uproar, because an opposite, a contradiction,
Has enraged them and made them want to talk it down.
What opposite? Could it be that yellow patch, the side
Of a house, that makes one think the house is laughing;
Or these--escent--issant pre-personae: first fly,
A comic infanta among the tragic drapings,
Babyishness of forsythia, a snatch of belief,
The spook and makings of the nude magnolia?
. . . Wanderer, this is the pre-history of February.
The life of the poem in the mind has not yet begun.
You were not born yet when the trees were crystal
Nor are you now, in this wakefulness inside a sleep.
Wallace Stevens, "The Rock," Collected Poetry and Prose (The Library of America 1997).
Stevens's observation that the trees "kept saying over and over one same, same thing" brings to mind his poem "The Region November" (the loveliness of which I have touted on more than one occasion). In that poem, the trees
. . . sway, deeply and loudly, in an effort,
So much less than feeling, so much less than speech,
Saying and saying, the way things say
On the level of that which is not yet knowledge:
A revelation not yet intended.
Wallace Stevens, "Late Poems," Ibid.
I will hazard the guess that Stevens wants us to know that we need to move beyond the iterations of the trees, which, though beautiful and real, are nothing in themselves. And what enables us to move beyond the "saying" of the trees? "The life of the poem in the mind."
It is important to recognize that, in Stevens's world, "poem" has a definition that goes well beyond "verse": throughout Stevens's poetry, "poem" means the imagination interacting with the world and the world interacting with the imagination. Back and forth, back and forth. The title of another of his late poems perhaps sums this up: "Reality Is an Activity of the Most August Imagination." (And we mustn't forget "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts.")