A Force of Nature: Imagination in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery
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“One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be poetry at that time” (The necessary vii). What Stevens is suggesting here is that a poet must find a particular voice among other voices –other poets– and that his voice will be significant only if it intends to be a contribution to the theory of poetry, in the sense that they “are disclosures of poetry, not disclosures of definitions of poetry” (Ibid). Precisely, the poetry of Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery are disclosures of poetry regarding imagination, for they deal with the capacity of the mind to transform external reality. Both poets take the reader through beautifully pictured strange landscapes and, by allowing the reader…show more content…
However, in this essay, I understand poetic tradition precisely as the ability of the poet of being aware of his/her predecessors in order to create a poetics that takes into account existing tradition, but imprints its own voice throughout time and fix it in the memory of poetry.
In this essay, I will observe the way Stevens and Ashbery deal with imagination as a mayor theme of their poetic oeuvre. However, it is important to stress that in both cases I will address only general concerns about the role of imagination in poetry and that this essay is not an attempt to simplify the richness of the work of Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery, but rather an effort to understand the importance of the poetic tradition. I shall proceed in the following way. I shall first study three poems of Wallace Stevens, “The Snowman”, “The Idea of Order in Key West” and “Tattoo” in order to understand Stevens’ notion of the role of imagination in poetry. Finally, I shall compare Stevens’ notion with Ashbery’s idea of imagination, displayed in “The instruction manual” so as to observe resemblances and differences between each poetics of the imagination.
1. Wallace Stevens
Let me evoke an image of identification: “One must have a mind of winter / To regard the frost and the boughs / Of the pine-trees crusted with snow” (Poemhunter Stevens). In the