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The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad -- Wallace Stevens

(Poem #373) 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.
-- Wallace Stevens
       (from Harmonium, 1923)

An unusually 'hard' poem - I had to read it thrice just to see what it was
talking about. However, it's a rewarding effort, if only to see the
seemingly unrelated fragments and the roundabout construction finally
crystallise into a coherent whole. Of course, there are other rewards -
images like 'days like oceans in obsidian' and 'night's midsummer blaze',
phrases like 'the malady of the quotidian' spring to eye, and on the whole
the piece has a nice flow to it.

However, none of the above are the reason I ran the poem. Why did I? Well,
how could I *not* run a poem titled 'The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad?' <g>
Truly, one of the nicest titles I've seen, especially given the lack of
connection to the poem.


  pharynx: The cavity, with its enclosing muscles and mucous membrane,
  situated behind and communicating with the nose, mouth, and larynx, and
  continuous below with the oesophagus; forming a passage from the mouth for
  the food and drink, and from the nasal passages for the breath. --OED

So now you know.


For a biography, see the previous Stevens poem we've run, poem #154


36 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

joyce said...


I was rather chuffed to have found your review of my poem for which I thank you. I am about to put music to it and later release it with some of my other works. I understood from a few people here and there whom I have encountered in my travels, that others use it at funerals.
For me this is quite amazing, when I wrote this poem it was the impact of what I felt as we drove towards Ebba Vale, I was more than amazed. I have since written a musical entitled "Common Threads" linking the workers of the Sugar cane plantation of Grenada in the Caribbean with the coal mining workers of Big Pit in Torfaen S Wales.

In the next two weeks I will be releasing a CD entitlrd "Rewind to Fast Forward" it is based on the now published book by Dr Vidya Anand entitlrd "From Slavery to Freedom".

Having paid my poem such a complement, I felt it is right that I should let you know what i'm doing at this period in time.

Best wishes


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