Sudden Spoon

Collaborative Close Readings

Diving into the Wreck: “the thing itself”


I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.

. . .

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth

Rich’s poem and the book that contains it are like lost friends, nearly forgotten. I was stunned to come back to the poem now and read the words I quote, which immediately called to mind these words from An Ordinary Evening in New Haven by Wallace Stevens:

The poem is the cry of its occasion,
Part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is,

Not as it was: part of the reverberation
Of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues
Are like newspapers blown by the wind. He speaks

By sight and insight as they are. There is no
Tomorrow for him. The wind will have passed by,
The statues will have gone back to be things about.

The mobile and the immobile flickering
In the area between is and was are leaves,
Leaves burnished in autumnal burnished trees

And leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings
Around and away, resembling the presence of thought,
Resembling the presences of thoughts, as if,

In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
The town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.

This does not qualify as anything like a close reading, of course, but I’ll posit this: she dives, he whirls in the wind. For both, “the poem is the cry of its occasion,” and “words of the world are the life of the world.”

Listening List: Elgar’s Where Corals Lie, from Sea Pictures


2 comments on “Diving into the Wreck: “the thing itself”

  1. dennisaguinaldo
    December 13, 2012

    Thank you for the intertexts, Susan. This is what I love about your posts, they’re textured and aural, so all your senses need to work at once.

  2. Susan Scheid
    December 14, 2012

    Thanks, Dennis. I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition to Stevens, even though I didn’t take it anywhere! I thought Elizabeth’s post was really meaty in this regard, bringing in WCW’s “thing itself” point of view. Interesting that Stevens, WCW, and Rich all make a reference to the “thing itself,” and yet I think each poet has an entirely different view of what the “thing” is. There’s an absolutely fascinating Poem Talk, by the way, about Stevens’s poem “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself” (here’s the link: & Charles Bernstein participates). I have to have another listen, but one of the things that’s discussed is Stevens’ poem as a rebuttal or answer to WCW’s view of “the thing itself.” I wonder if Rich had any of this in mind when she wrote the phrase “the thing itself.” Lots to ponder here, it seems to me.

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This entry was posted on December 10, 2012 by in Poem of the Week, Week 2.
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