Saturday, April 20, 2013

Of Mere Being

Wallace Stevens was a businessman who worked most of his career in the insurance industry in Connecticut. He wrote poetry as a way to calm himself, often while commuting to and from work. If you read poetry, no doubt you have favorite poem you revisit from time to time. Such a poem becomes an old friend. That being said, I would like to introduce you to this one.

Of Mere Being                                                            

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

The palm at the end of the mind with a bird singing a song without feeling reminds us that merely being is not enough. The poem seems to challenge us to see the beauty, hear the bird’s song and give it meaning and reason. Observe. Find the Joy. Thank you Wallace Stevens!

ST LOUIS - Artist Robert Lobe (b. 1945) was inspired by Wallace Stevens poem Of Mere Being when he used a dying walnut tree as a starting point/substrate for his sculpture The Palm at the End of the Parking Lot. This photo by Wes Morgan captures the sculpture under threatening skies last fall at Laumeier Sculpture Park (2012).   

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