An Ordinary Evening in New Haven

by Pericles Lewis

In “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” (1950), Wallace Stevens writes of the possibility of a kind of poem that would avoid the vagaries of representation. describes the ideal of a language that could express reality as it is:

The poem of pure reality, untouched
By trope or deviation, straight to the word,
Straight to the transfixing object, to the object At the exactest point at which it is itself,
Transfixed by being purely what it is.
A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye,
The eye made clear of uncertainty, with the sight
Of simple seeing, without reflection. We seek
Nothing beyond reality.

Yet Stevens’ poems, though influenced by imagism in their emphasis on exact representation, tend to represent not “transfixing objects” but abstractions. He never describes New Haven, but only analyzes what the simple view of New Haven might be.[1]

  1. ↑ This page has been adapted from Pericles Lewis’s Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 2007), pp. 148-149.

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