Of Modern Poetry
Literature & Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speaks words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear (12-15).
So what should poetry be telling us? How about exactly what we want to hear? But Stevens might not mean exactly what you think. It's not poetry's job to tell you that you're pretty or cool. It's poetry's job to tell you what you need to find some sort of spiritual satisfaction in life—something a little more big-picture and less superficial than looks or popularity.
The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark. (19-20)
If the poem is an actor, and an actor is a metaphysician in the dark, then ipso facto, the poem is a metaphysician in the dark. Basically, a metaphysician is someone who wonders about the most basic questions in life, like "What's the proof for God?" and "How do I know the world around me is real?" So a modern poem needs to ask these kinds of questions, even though the answers aren't clear anymore and the poem might as well be working in the dark.
The poem of the act of the mind (28)
In the end, Stevens says that a modern poem can't just be about things that are beautiful. It has to be about the process inside our minds that makes us see something as beautiful. Now that might sound a little weird, and that's because it is. But Stevens knows that different people find beauty in different things. The one thing that's common to all of us, though, is our minds' reaction to beauty. That common element is what Stevens wants modern poetry to focus on.