The Paltry Nude Starts on a Spring Voyage
Wallace Stevens (1919)
But not on a shell, she starts,
Archaic, for the sea.
But on the first-found weed
She scuds the glitters,
Noiselessly, like one more wave.
She too is discontent
And would have purple stuff upon her arms,
Tired of the salty harbors,
Eager for the brine and bellowing
Of the high interiors of the sea.
The wind speeds her on,
Blowing upon her hands
And watery back.
She touches the clouds, where she goes
In the circle of her traverse of the sea.
Yet this is meagre play
In the scrurry and water-shine
As her heels foam —
Not as when the goldener nude
Of a later day
Will go, like the centre of sea-green pomp,
In an intenser calm,
Scullion of fate,
Across the spick torrent, ceaselessly,
Upon her irretrievable way.
*first appeared in Poetry (October 1919); later in the book Harmonium (1923).
Snow and ice and slush are again covering the streets of Baltimore. A sign winter has arrived. As the semester comes to a close, there is a brief pause here, a breath, a sigh of relief and anxiety and excitement to dedicate more time to writing.
Part of the refocusing ritual towards writing is reading, and part of this routine is re-writing. Not editing or revising ongoing works started at the beginning of the semester–or much earlier–but literally retyping out–returning to–some of the classics that first piqued my senses. It was an exercise started back in my undergraduate days–before Kenny Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing and just as I was beginning my introduction with conceptual writing, modernism, and the exercises and experiments of the avant-garde and vanguard arts—perhaps, for no other reason, to the fingers moving on the keyboard, to get them realigned with my thoughts, or to get my thoughts re-focused. To type out the text is to rethink the words (or maybe to un-think through them). In Stevens’ “The Paltry Nude”, I am not thinking about the history and criticism. I am not thinking about the imagery, the sound, the rhyme. And I am not thinking about thinking, writing, the snow on the ground, the absent sun, the list of papers and Finals awaiting grading.
I start typing B—U—T and end with the W—A—Y.