Coffee with Wallace

Sit with Wallace Stevens in my garden, drinking coffee & cloud spotting, in this poem from The Wallace Variations.

Coffee with Wallace

Look at this coffee pot,
it is metallic, figure of a dancer;

warm when acted upon, but cold.
Light distracts its mirrored face,

a design half-inched from a hall of mirrors,
to show us to ourselves, alternately.

The other day it was very windy,
the metallic coffee pot rattled a wooden spoon,

or did the wooden spoon rattle it?
i wanted it to whistle— it wasn’t a day for whistling.

When the wind fell apart, Wallace & i
took the pot into the parcelled garden

& as we sipped hot coffee all the stupid
afternoon, we shaped metaphors with passing clouds.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim Miller says:

    Classic Daniel & Wallace. I read these & am especially happy you latched into Wally for these poems, since to some he doesn’t seem the personable or friend type. But there’s always been something nerdy & human about him, as ethereal as some of his poems are. Have you written elsewhere about how or when or why this Wally sequence was something you took up?

    1. i did. In the first post i think. It was an attempt to shake off his stylistic hold over me so i could try to progress into a style of my own. & hearing stories of how he scrubbed the kitchen floor because of his wife’s mental illness made me see something human & domestic in him. There just seemed to be so much to expand & move within & seemed not only tribute to a poet i could probably say i admire the most but a sort of more creative cut up, rather than juxtapose existing text use it for a world in which the poet actually breathes again. So many reasons Tim so so many. I have many more. Another tomorrow, a new one.

  2. Particularly enjoyed the last two stanzas, the wind falling apart on a stupid afternoon. I’d say definitely the opposite of stupid, love the laissez faire feel of it ☕

    1. Cheers Steve. It is an afternoon i can only ever imagine, the poet being dead the last 70 or so years.

      1. Well in that case, I’m glad he wasn’t wandering around moaning and looking for brains. 😜

      2. There is an episode where he comes back from the dead. If you look through the Library of Babel category you can find a poem called Opus Postumus, that poem is his rebirth.

  3. kvennarad says:

    I’ve spoilt myself for reading poetry, because now I approach other people’s work with my own principle of what matters is the meaning I (the reader) bring to it. I love the way this poem comes on in short steps of two lines, the way it plays with ‘distracts’ (reflects, diffracts…), and the idea of who’s rattling whom on a day inappropriate for whistling (drowned by the wind, so what’s the point?) when whistling is nonetheless irresistible.

    1. Nowt wrong with that, so long as the reading (or even, misprision) is strong as a goats hoof. & you have some fine reading talents. As a naive but fascinated literature student, at 20, i thought the opening of Prufrock was drug related. It isn’t.
      You picked up on the potential ambiguity of the sounds: are they a source of irritation or a welcome sensation? Your reading is proper. This is one of my very existential poems. The whistling is ambiguous & to be absolutely honest i considered removing it because though i liked the idea, still do; it had such an uncertain meaning i felt it improper to leave it in, as i usually have a personal meaning for everything i put in a poem, whether that is apparent or not to the reader, it is to me. But this was something i thought i’d understand later, & i have my theories, but ultimately, i still didn’t decide. It is almost certainly tied with the wind, perhaps it is because there are no openings for the wind to squeeze through. or that this somehow doesn’t inspire the characters (me n’ Wally) to fill in the gaps the wind has left open? Perhaps that is life: us & the weather filling in each other’s gaps for good or ill.

      1. kvennarad says:

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting something in a poem without knowing precisely what it means at the time, hoping to understand it later. In fact I think that’s good.

      2. Not at all. i am learning this. i recently started reading Roy Fisher & reading interviews with him, he too seems to have written with a mix of intention but also of a sort of mercy-to-recall & what that can spawn. You have been a big influence too Marie, watch this space.

      3. kvennarad says:

        I can’t tear my eyes from it.

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