Analysis Of Poet Wallace Stevens 'A Postcard From The Volcano'

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Poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) felt that imagination was essential in a world where violence and hatred are a common reality. His poem “A Postcard from the Volcano” describes a moment from the future sent back in time to the present age (the age Stevens was writing in). As the title of the poem suggests, I believe the vignette depicts a desolate, blackened scene as if a volcano had erupted, and children are picking up the bones of people who died in the apocalyptic scene. The innocent children are not aware of the history behind the bones they are picking up or what the person they belonged to contributed to the world that they have now inherited. I think that Stevens is trying to encourage readers to use their imagination in order to think about what type of world they will be leaving for future generations. When one thinks of the aftermath of a volcano, a lava field may come to mind. The ground is covered in a layer of thick black liquid rock now solidified. Loose rocks may litter the ground where these is little to no vegetation if the field is younger; however, in Stevens’ poem, children are picking up bones but not just any bones- “our” bones (1). By adding in that small word or detail, a reader may assume that the image being presented by Stevens takes place in the future. “Our” includes Stevens and the people of his generation, and children, or a future generation, are doing the action. Establishing whose bones the children are collecting is crucial to making sense of the rest of the poem. Stevens’ readers should care about the bones because they are the bones of the reader and the bones of the reader’s friends and family; they represent the physical being or presence of those around them [the reader], but the children will never understand that the bones “had a being” (6). They will not understand that there was a life connected to them. Steven writes that the children “will never know that these [bones] were once/As quick as foxes on a hill,” meaning they will never know the physical capabilities of the people who the bones belong to (2-3). He also predicts that very few will be able to “guess” or even consider what past generations left behind or past on to children’s present time. I believe that

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