Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Academic Discourse at Miami: Wallace Stevens and the Domestication of Light," by Jay Hopler

One of the few contemporary poets that I follow is Jay Hopler. He did a reading at my alma mater a couple years ago, and I've been hooked on his strange, beautiful, ruin-drenched work ever since. I picked this poem for the week because it connects back to last week's post, Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man." Stevens wrote a lot of poems about Florida, and this is Hopler's response to those poems (it should also be noted that Hopler is often compared to Stevens for his slight absurdism rooted in loneliness and contemporary anxiety). I also chose this poem because I like pieces where poets seem to be talking to each other across time and space, and this is one example of that. Enjoy!

Academic Discourse at Miami: Wallace Stevens and the Domestication of Light, by Jay Hopler

I have no beef with Wallace Stevens
Even if some of his poems do feel like so much tropical slumming.

I only wish he could have lived here, in Florida, instead of simply
Visiting once in a while -; how much more essential his summer-

Minded poems would have been! Not that a poem like "Farewell
To Florida" is solely summer-minded or is, somehow, inessential -

Only, that there exists a difference between the tropical light one
Finds beaming in a Stevens poem and the tropical light one finds

Burning in the tropics. Florida's light is far more aggressive, far
More violent, than Stevens knew -

It gets inside your head and shreds
Things, dismantles memory, shorts out the will; even now, at six

O'clock of a Friday evening, the light here in Florida is clanging,
Banging, rattling buildings, burning through the park's green pelt.

This never happens in a Stevens poem.

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