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On Sundays, We Read Poetry

Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.


The other day, a different poem reminded me of Wallace Stevens's "Things of August," so I pulled down my battered copy of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens and partook. This book was a discard from my college library, already in disrepair all those years ago. Since then, the binding has continued to disintegrate, and it lacks both front and back cover. I don't recall if I rescued it in this state, or if the decline has occurred in my "care." Still. It is a delight and a balm to me.

And here, for your enjoyment are a few stanzas selected from "Things of August."


These locusts by day, these crickets by night

Are the instruments on which to play

Of an old and disused ambit of the soul

Or of a new aspect, bright in discovery---

A disused ambit of the spirit's way,

The sort of thing that August crooners sing,

By a pure fountain, that was a ghost, and is,

Under the sun-slides of a sloping mountain;


The thinker as reader reads what has been written.

He wears the words he reads to look upon

Within his being,

A crown within him of crispest diamonds,

A reddened garment falling to his feet,

A hand of light to turn the page


A new text of the world,

A scribble of fret and fear and fate,

From a bravura of the mind,

A courage of the eye,

In which, for all the breathings

From the edge of night, And for all the white voice

That were rosen once,

The meanings are our own---

It is a text that we shall be needing,

To be the footing of noon,

The pillar of midnight,

That comes from ourselves, neither from knowing

Nor not knowing, yet free from question,

Because we wanted it so

And it had to be,


The mornings grow silent, the never-tiring wonder. The trees are reappearing in poverty.

Without rain, there is the sadness of rain

And an air of lateness. The moon is a tricorn

Waved in pale adieu. The rex Impolitor

Will come stamping here, the ruler of less than men,

In less than nature. He is not here yet.

Here the adult one is still banded with fulgor,

Is still warm with the love with which she came,

Still touches solemnly with what she was

And willed. She has given too much, but not enough.

She is exhausted and a little old.


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