Bloom, Harold. Wallace Stevens: The Poems of Our Climate.
Ithaca, N.J.: Cornell University Press, 1977. Justice, Donald. "The Free-Verse Line in Stevens." In Oblivion: On Writers and Writing. Ashland, Ore.: Story Line Press, 1998, pp. 13-38. Riddell, Joseph N. The Clairvoyant Eye: The Poetry and Poetics of Wallace Stevens. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1965. Spicer, Jack. The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer, edited by Peter Gizzi. Hanover, N.H.: Wes-leyan University Press, 1998. Stevens, Wallace. "Imagination as Value." In The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination. New York: Vintage Books, 1951. Vendler, Helen. Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen out of Desire. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.
STONE, RUTH (1915- ) For reasons of temperament and circumstance, the development of Ruth Stone's poetry has been strikingly independent of all schools and alliances. She is, in Alicia ostrikers phrase, "a classic American maverick" (662). Stone's first book, In An Iridescent Time (1957), shows a marked musicality, a lightness and gaiety that echoes in the later volumes as a kind of antic irony animating the tragic and hard-won wisdom of those poems.
Ruth Perkins Stone was born in Roanoke, Virginia, into a family of writers, painters, and musicians. Stone met her husband, the poet and novelist Walter Stone, while they were students at the University of Illinois. Walter attended graduate school at Harvard, while Ruth sat in on classes and was a part of the circle of poets there that included Richard wilbur, Delmore Schwartz, and Richard eberhart. Some of her awards include a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute from 1963 to 1965 (where she developed ties with other Radcliffe fellows, such as Maxine kumin and Tillie Olsen), two Guggenheim fellowships (1971 and 1975), the Delmore Schwartz Award (1983), a Whiting Writers' Award (1986), and the Paterson Poetry Prize (1986). During these years Stone produced three collections. In 1990 she accepted a full-time appointment at Binghamton University (New York). Three more collections appeared over the next decade. Ordinary Words
(1999) was honored with the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2000. Stone's eighth collection, In the Next Galaxy, appeared in 2002.
Her husband Walter's suicide in 1959 while the family was in England is a recurring lens through which Stone examines love, loss, and mortality. "Every day I dig you up," she tells Walter in "Habit" (1972), "you are my poem." Time does not diminish the crackling immediacy of remembered emotions: "our bed danced on the floor / as if we had created a miracle" ("Happiness" ). There is a freshness to her work, as if the poet sees the world clearly in all of its loss and sadness, as if she knows well what humanity is capable of, yet she irrepressibly holds open the hope we will chose to do better: "I am a stranger crossing the bone bridge to meet the other," she tells us in "For Eight Women" (1995), and "our skulls shine like calligraphy in a longed-for language." Note the clarity of her unexpected images and the connective tissue of assonance. An abiding interest in the sciences and an utter lack of sentimentality also distinguish her work: "oh world, oh galaxy," she sings in "End of Summer . . . 1969," "My error is to look for meaning in the sun / That burns for burning."
Barker, Wendy, and Sandra M. Gilbert, eds. The House Is Made of Poetry: The Art of Ruth Stone. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996. Bennani, Ben, ed. The World of Ruth Stone, Paintbrush: A Journal of Poetry and Translation XXVII (2000-2001): 6-143. Ostriker, Alicia. Headnote to selection of poems by Ruth Stone. Feminist Studies 25.3 (1999): 662.
"STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING" ROBERT FROST (1923) Although traditional in form (see prosody and free verse), "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a modernist poem in its use of a persona with a divided sensibility (see modernism). The speaker is divided between his sense of duty and a romantic aestheticism—his desire to watch the woods fill up with snow. Unlike the works of the 19th-century American transcendentalists, on which Robert frost draws heavily in his poetry, "Stopping by Woods" does not reconcile these discordant selves. Like many 20th-century American poets, Frost recognizes the impossibility of a fully integrated psyche.
The speaker of the poem, who is traveling in a horse-drawn sleigh, pauses in his journey to watch someone's woods fill up with snow. From the start, the speaker admits that he knows who owns the woods by which he has stopped. His words reveal a sense of guilt, as though he were somehow trespassing. The play on legal (pragmatic) and poetic (imaginative) ownership is reminiscent of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Nature" (1849) and Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854). For the moment, the speaker owns the landscape, but, unlike the idealists Emerson and Thoreau, he does not believe his ownership is philosophically legitimate and permanent. Instead he makes his horse a projection of his own conscience, which judges his self-indulgence to be a moral error.
The critic Frank Lentricchia associates "Stopping by Woods" with other poems in which Frost's speakers describe landscapes filling up with snow. Lentricchia suggests that these scenes are psychologically symbolic: "[T]he speaker does not stop for long, perhaps because, in his fascination with the woods, he senses in their darkness, in their inhuman otherness, suggestions of his personal end" (96). Nevertheless he does stop, for the appeal of this aesthetic moment is aural (based on sound) as well as visual. As Richard Poirier argues, the speaker "is in danger of losing himself; and his language by the end of the third stanza begins to carry hints of seductive luxuriousness unlike anything preceding it" (183). Frost expresses this aural appeal through sensuous, liquid consonants and long vowels. This same melopoeia (the use of sound to charge language with emotion) continues until the final stanza, where it is countermanded by the recollection of obligations. According to Lentricchia, the "aesthetic moment is defined as a moment of stillness . . . engendered by pure contemplative appreciation. . . . But the moment of stillness and freedom is tightly circumscribed: . . . our aesthetic man must yield to quotidian man" (96). Although the dutiful side of his character overcomes his desire for aesthetic pleasure, the speaker is aware of the cost. The last two lines, identical in diction and syntax, express the speaker's weary resignation. The resonance of "miles," bespeaking the long journey, is juxtaposed with the exhaustive and liquid initial consonants of "sleep," epitomizing the struggle of two selves throughout the poem.
Lentricchia, Frank. Robert Frost: Modern Poetics and the Landscapes of Self. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975. Poirier, Richard. Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
STRAND, MARK (1934- ) An extensive writer of fiction, translation, and poetry, Strand's poetry has generally been associated with the surrealistic verse that reached its zenith in America during the 1960s and 1970s and has been practiced occasionally by such poets as W S. merwin, Robert bly, and James wright. His work is characterized by minimalism and symbolic imagery, and while not all his work is of a surreal nature, Strand's poetry is generally noted for its dreamlike characteristics that investigate the limitations of the internal and external worlds of the individual. His poetry is dark, thoughtful, clear, humorous and, at times, metaphysical. Despite the fact that his poetry can be mysterious, it generally remains well grounded. Although Latin American surrealism greatly influenced Strand's style, the picturesque nature of his poetry is also reflective of his early training as a painter, where his spacious language is reminiscent of Albert Cuyp's serene landscapes.
Born on Canada's Prince Edward Island, Strand was educated at Antioch, Yale, and Iowa. His books of poetry include Sleeping with One Eye Open (1964), Reasons for Moving (1968), Darker (1970), The Story of Our Lives (1973), winner of the 1974 Edgar Allan Poe Award, Selected Poems (1980), The Continuous Life (1990), winner of the 1992 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, Dark Harbor (1993), which won the 1993 Bollingen Prize, and Blizzard of One (1998), which won the Pulitzer Prize and Boston Book Review's Bingham Poetry Prize in 1999. He has also published prose, translation, and children's books, as well as edited a number of anthologies. His latest work is also his first collection of essays, The Weather of Words (2000). His honors include a 1979 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a 1987 MacArthur Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts grants
(1968, 1978, and 1986), and an award from the Rockefeller Foundation (2000). He is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and served as poet laureate of the United States in 1990.
In a post-Pulitzer Prize interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth, Strand remarked, "A poem releases itself, secretes itself slowly, sometimes almost poisonously, into the mind of the reader. ... It does it by rearranging the world in such a way that it appears new. It does it by using language that is slightly different from the way language is used in the workday world, so that you're forced to pay attention to it" (Strand "Interview"). An example of Strand's use of this "rearranging" is the third section of Blizzard of One, a series of poems written from the viewpoint of five grieving dogs that are free to say the things humans cannot or will not say. These confined and domesticated dogs easily sing at night to the "great starfields," calling to the "wished-for reaches of heaven." This sense of delight and longing allows for the exposure of the truth of human disconnectedness. In a surreal world, where "The sky / Was a sheet of white" and where there "was a dog in a phone booth / Calling home," human readers find a voice for the fear of being alone in the universe. The result of this recognition of shared humanity is pure Strand, where the only recourse can be an existential release into universal oneness. In an earlier poem, "Eating Poetry" (1980), Strand again uses the image of man as dog; here the speaker becomes a dog after eating/reading poetry only to frighten a librarian, when he gets "on [his] knees and lick[s] her hand."
Strand's poetry spans the gap between what we know is real and what is ethereal. It is clear that his vision, his hope, is "that through the imaginary world that [poets] create . . . we see the real world more clearly" (Strand "Interview"). In "Eating Poetry," the speaker claims, "ink runs from the corners of my mouth. / There is no happiness like mine." While obviously imaginary, such a statement portrays the real world of the poet, and all those like him, who feast on poetry.
Aaron, Jonathan. "About Mark Strand: A Profile."
Ploughshares 21.4 (1995-96): 202-206. Strand, Mark. "Interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth," PBS
NewsHour. Available online. URL: www.pbs.org/
newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june99/pulitzer_4-15. html. Downloaded December 2003.
Salita S. Bryant
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