TS Heavy Hitters Poll #3: Frost vs Stevens

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At last.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Wallace Stevens 11
Robert Frost 8


balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 00:47 (nine years ago) link

"The Plain Sense of Things"

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as necessity requires.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 00:47 (nine years ago) link

"The Most of It"

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree–hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder–broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter–love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff's talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 00:48 (nine years ago) link

In fairness so Stevens, I know Frost much better; I took a whole course largely on the latter (along w/Hardy), but got to know Stevens mainly on my own outside of the requisite close readings of "The Emperor of Ice Cream" & the 13 ways of the blackbird et al. Too little is made of Stevens's actual versification in my opinion - free or no, he has a potent feel for the line - but I think he stands at the exact place where the ability to versify with that sort of bad-ass 20-wins-per-season pitcher style is about to pass permanently out of fashion. Contrast Frost, whose numbers are second to none. Interestingly, politically, Stevens is conservative, whereas Frost is a sort of New England liberal for the most part, enchanted by Kennedy in late years. Certainly if iconoclasts are your thing, you're going to have much more time for Stevens than for Frost, who works within The Tradition. Stevens writes at a remove; it's wrong to say that he writes without feeling, but in the modernist way, feeling is diffuse throughout the image and the line and the reflection and the re-ordering of things. Frost goes for the throat. I have read Stevens sometimes with wonder and sometimes with confusion and often with reverence, and often feeling like he is a much smarter dude than me. But I am a goth and must have blood to drink. I voted Frost.

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 00:57 (nine years ago) link

or in short "pushing the crumpled water up ahead" -- good GOD, man.

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 01:00 (nine years ago) link

Frost was about 10x craftier than he looks at first blush. Stevens was more of the show horse. Stevens get read reverentially by college students and the occasional college professor. Frost gets read by a very odd assortment of people, many of whom mistake him for a sentimentalist like themselves, who makes snow globe scenes of New England for their knick-knack shelf (but he was no sentimentalist, no, not remotely).

I find Stevens to be urbane and witty company, very sly in a complicitous way, tipping the reader a wink. Frost just hammers away at his metal until it takes the shape of how he thinks, leaving just a few, hidden, jagged spurs he preferred to not file off.

I voted Frost.

Aimless, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 01:10 (nine years ago) link

I can't explain Stevens' impact on me: those impassive tercets; the ghostly rhythms comprised of beautifully timed exoticisms and monosyllables; the conservative man's fascinations with colors, sights, and sounds just beyond him but poeticized in these hilarious, often moving friezes; the stateliness of his best poems, how they march to a perfect release. He's a poet to grow old with.

btw Stevens' collected letters are among the most beautiful ever written, and are essential to understanding him.

I've talked about Frost before: I treasure an anthology my mom bought for my thirteenth birthday, after I fell in love with "The Cow in Apple Time," "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," and the other classics. If there's one poet who should be taught to children wary of poetry, Frost is it. Then, as they get older, they can appreciate a darkness as all-encompassing as Stevens'. My students always get him.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 01:13 (nine years ago) link

and, man, "required, as necessity requires" -- perfect, PERFECT.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 01:14 (nine years ago) link

http://www.kwls.org/lit/kwls_blog/2009/04/post_11.cfm
Frost and Stevens at the Casa Marina Hotel in Key West, ca. 1940:

"The trouble with you, Robert, is that you write about– subjects."
"The trouble with you, Wallace, is that you write about– bric-a-brac."

They both had a good point. I vote for Frost. He just had/has so many great poems-- for me: Aquainted with the Night, Desert Places, Provide, Provide, Neither Out Far Nor In Deep, Stopping By Woods, Directive, After Apple Picking.
Stevens had a great ear, a great sense of the line, and had poems that "make you think." He just didn't have hardly any poems that made me feel -- much

donald nitchie, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 03:01 (nine years ago) link

Not even the later, wintry poems?

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 03:09 (nine years ago) link

That's really where he breaks through, but "Sunday Morning" is a thing of beauty:

She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, ``The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.''
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or an old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 03:10 (nine years ago) link

sad that Stevens is going to lose...there's a poem, I don't remember which one, but it compares the sun to Walt Whitman, which is probably one of my favorite tropes of all everything...

demons a. real (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 07:31 (nine years ago) link

I find Stevens to be urbane and witty company, very sly in a complicitous way, tipping the reader a wink. Frost just hammers away at his metal until it takes the shape of how he thinks, leaving just a few, hidden, jagged spurs he preferred to not file off.

agree with this and voting Stevens. In some poems I feel like Stevens is instructing the reader to be more like Frost then Stevens himself i.e. remaining a neutral viewer of the world, avoiding the personification and abstraction he sometimes engages in. Or maybe its how someone should read Frost, without oversimplifying his images into boring symbols.

bnw, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 08:08 (nine years ago) link

I can't explain Stevens' impact on me: those impassive tercets; the ghostly rhythms comprised of beautifully timed exoticisms and monosyllables; the conservative man's fascinations with colors, sights, and sounds just beyond him but poeticized in these hilarious, often moving friezes; the stateliness of his best poems, how they march to a perfect release. He's a poet to grow old with.

Top stuff, and chimes with and articulates very much my more or less limited reading of him. (Going through the Collected Poems at the moment).

Hide the prickforks (GamalielRatsey), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 11:15 (nine years ago) link

Easy vote for Stevens. I think I've said enough about the limits of my Frost appreciation on a couple of other threads, and Stevens (with Moore, Bishop nearby) is my favourite US poet of the century. Constantly return to him - things that puzzle me, or seem like a thrown-away odd image or lexical/sonic trick on early readings become serious, clearer & haunting as I come back to them. Great summary from Lord Soto.

tetrahedron of space (woof), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:08 (nine years ago) link

Certainly if iconoclasts are your thing, you're going to have much more time for Stevens than for Frost, who works within The Tradition.

Dunno about this - feel like Stevens is an end or rejuvenation of intellectual Romanticism, the Coleridge -> Shelley aesthetics & imagination tradition, with a kind of continental filter (so takes in symbolism & imagism, but is already somewhere beyond that in the best of Harmonium.) Like he's really unusual, but I don't feel like he's iconoclastic I guess (but just thinking aloud, because yes, no disagreement that Frost sits in The Tradition more easily).

tetrahedron of space (woof), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:15 (nine years ago) link

Stevens is definitely a Romantic-capital-R. "Credences of Summer" and "Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction" play with Romantic tropes.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:29 (nine years ago) link

Lots of Shelley in "Credences of Summer," for instance.

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:29 (nine years ago) link

Also: Stevens came up with the most awesome, OTM titles in the history of poetry (he really used to keep a notebook filled with them). Sometimes the titles are better than the poems. Here's one where it isn't the case:

"The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad"

The time of year has grown indifferent.
Mildew of summer and the deepening snow
Are both alike in the routine I know:
I am too dumbly in my being pent.

The wind attendant on the solstices
Blows on the shutters of the metropoles,
Stirring no poet in his sleep, and tolls
The grand ideas of the villages.

The malady of the quotidian . . .
Perhaps if summer ever came to rest
And lengthened, deepened, comforted, caressed
Through days like oceans in obsidian

Horizons, full of night's midsummer blaze;
Perhaps, if winter once could penetrate
Through all its purples to the final slate,
Persisting bleakly in an icy haze;

One might in turn become less diffident,
Out of such mildew plucking neater mould
And spouting new orations of the cold.
One might. One might. But time will not relent

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:31 (nine years ago) link

Stevens

horseshoe, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 13:05 (nine years ago) link

here we go:

In the far South the sun of autumn is passing
Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.
He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,
The worlds that were and will be, death and day.
Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.
His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame.

demons a. real (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:07 (nine years ago) link

In the far South the sun of autumn is passing
Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.
He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,
The worlds that were and will be, death and day.
Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.
His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame.

(I mean, that passage is sovereign, despite the unfortunate title.)

Lots of Shelley in "Credences of Summer," for instance.

And Keats! "To Autumn"!

alimosina, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:11 (nine years ago) link

Beat me to it.

alimosina, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:11 (nine years ago) link

Oh, that's definitely one from Harmonium. Can't place the title though.

xpost

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:12 (nine years ago) link

I appreciate those comparisons of Stevens to Shelley, and Keats—that actually helps me appreciate him more. I always assumed Frost was influenced by Hardy, and Yeats, and Browning, more than those other two. One other difference between the two, for me, is their humor; Frost makes me giggle with his cynicism, while Stevens seems more whimsical, even absurdist sometimes.

donald nitchie, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:26 (nine years ago) link

Stevens is more droll ("One might. One might. But time will not relent.")

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 14:35 (nine years ago) link

xpost: That last stanza of Sunday Morning is gorgeous. I always get kind of lost in the middle of that poem, though

donald nitchie, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:03 (nine years ago) link

Yeah, SM drifts in the middle. Part of the problem is the poem's published form is very different from its original sequence (the second stanza was originally the last, for instance).

balls and adieu (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:10 (nine years ago) link

gotta be stevens

max, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:23 (nine years ago) link

Frost/Stevens

gato busca pleitos (Eazy), Tuesday, 27 July 2010 17:50 (nine years ago) link

If the question was, who was more influential, I think it has turned out to be Stevens

donald nitchie, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 17:59 (nine years ago) link

SM is where Stevens first became Stevens. Nobody knows what happened. War is declared on God (what are you supposed to be doing on Sunday morning but aren't?) and the birds appear.

"The Plain Sense of Things" gets me every time. Without that rat coming out it would be too cold to bear.

alimosina, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:20 (nine years ago) link

If the question was, who was more influential, I think it has turned out to be Stevens

this is absolutely true - how happy are you with the present condition of poetry becomes the question then

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:22 (nine years ago) link

at which point we will have a proper lit-fight on our hands

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:23 (nine years ago) link

aw man later this week I will give this some serious reading/thought

corn piece in mouffetard (acoleuthic), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:29 (nine years ago) link

at which point we will have a proper lit-fight on our hands

I don't know about proper, more like unfortunate and lazy.

bnw, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:35 (nine years ago) link

?

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:40 (nine years ago) link

unless you're a person who doesn't think poetry has its ups & downs like any other genre I guess

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:41 (nine years ago) link

had a Russian teacher in high school who would, on occasion, do something like look out the window and notice it was starting to become winter or something and then would just go "you know, this reminds me of a poem by Robert Frost" and then recite the entire thing from memory

markers, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:43 (nine years ago) link

love that guy

markers, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:44 (nine years ago) link

sorry aero, wary of blanket dismissals, have sat through too many

bnw, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:44 (nine years ago) link

oh I don't blanket dismiss all poetry being written at present, nothing like that there's a lot of people working I like, I'll read anything wave books puts out usually with pleasure & I think we have in Norman Dubie something of a really oddball national treasure who doesn't get talked about nearly enough. but I do think some of the more alienating aspects of modernism & its various legacies, the directions the form went throughout the 20th century - i.e., the influences that took hold, among which Stevens ranks high; the things about Stevens against which Frost in his general clarity tends to stand - are the things about which people have disagreements, which are generally fun & even healthy

gross rainbow of haerosmith (underrated aerosmith albums I have loved), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 03:49 (nine years ago) link

^^^ Do the Russians love Frost? Nabokov did.

alimosina, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 14:40 (nine years ago) link

I know Joseph Brodsky loved Frost. Stevens, not as much

donald nitchie, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:35 (nine years ago) link

I've always had the impression that Stevens did not really have much appeal outside of English-speaking countries--see also: Wordsworth.

demons a. real (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 28 July 2010 19:24 (nine years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 23:01 (nine years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:01 (nine years ago) link

Stevens wins; Alfred gives up.

demons a. real (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:16 (nine years ago) link

When presented with a situation where numerous explanations are equally plausable, it is wise to choose the most charitable among them. Alfred may have been the victim of a bad haircut and consequently is ashamed to show his face around here until it grows out.

Aimless, Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:39 (nine years ago) link

Wait till you see my beard.

Gucci Mane hermeneuticist (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:45 (nine years ago) link

LOL sorry Alfred, I didn't mean to be uncharitable...

demons a. real (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 11 August 2010 18:33 (nine years ago) link

one month passes...

Really digging this description of Triton/the sea from The Comedian as the Letter C

... Triton incomplicate with that
Which made him Triton, nothing left of him,
Except in faint memorial gesturings,
That were like arms and shoulders in the waves,
Here, something in the rise and fall of wind
That seemed hallucinating horn, and here,
A sunken voice, both of remembering
And of forgetfulness, in alternate strain.

Wonderful depiction of a God, for a start, and a wonderful description of the sea (that remembering and forgetfulness in alternate strain, descriptive of the hush and flood of the ocean).

Pork Pius V (GamalielRatsey), Thursday, 7 October 2010 09:00 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 28 April 2012 20:00 (seven years ago) link

seven years pass...

The one moonlight, in the simple-colored night,
Like a plain poet revolving in his mind
The sameness of his various universe,
Shines on the mere objectiveness of things.
.
It is as if being was to be observed,
As if, among the possible purposes
Of what one sees, the purpose that comes first,
The surface, is the purpose to be seen,
.
The property of the moon, what it evokes.
It is to disclose the essential presence, say,
Of a mountain, expanded and elevated almost
Into a sense, an object the less; or else
.
To disclose in the figure waiting on the road
An object the more, an undetermined form
Between the slouchings of a gunman and a lover,
A gesture in the dark, a fear one feels
.
In the great vistas of night air, that takes this form,
In the arbors that are as if of Saturn-star.
So, then, this warm, wide, weatherless quietude
Is active with a power, an inherent life,
.
In spite of the mere objectiveness of things,
Like a cloud-cap in the corner of a looking-glass,
A change of color in the plain poet's mind,
Night and silence disturbed by an interior sound.
.
The one moonlight, the various universe, intended
So much just to be seen --- a purpose, empty
Perhaps, absurd perhaps, but at least a purpose,
Certain and ever more fresh. Ah! Certain, for
sure...

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 31 January 2020 15:43 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

Head says Stevens, heart says Frost on this. Today, I think I'd go Stevens, but happy to have both.

I'd not read 'For Once' before. I love it. If it hadn't been in that format (and not in the thread, obviously) I might have mistaken it for Larkin.

Ngolo Cantwell (Chinaski), Sunday, 16 February 2020 14:30 (one month ago) link


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