buddha in the snow

‘The Snow Man’ (Wallace Stevens, 1921)

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

*              *             *

With apologies to any American readers, I had never heard of Wallace Stevens before today.  He certainly didn’t make it into any of those poetry anthologies we had to read at school.

I’m not going to offer my own pedestrian analysis of the poem above – if only because it seems to have been done to death already. But what I like about it is its sense of being human which foregrounds perception, representation, and affect; Stevens’ rejection of the possibility of knowing objects ‘as they truly are’ doesn’t lead him to a desire to overcome the subject. By extension, the practice of humanity is not about separation, nor about immersion; it’s all about entanglement.

28 April 2014, London

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