Art of the Day: Poem – Wallace Stevens’ “Fabliau Of Florida”

  January 19th, 2015

 
 
 

FABLIAU OF FLORIDA
   Wallace Stevens

 
Barque of phosphor
On the palmy beach,
 
Move outward into heaven,
Into the alabasters
And night blues.
 
Foam and cloud are one.
Sultry moon-monsters
Are dissolving.
 
Fill your black hull
With white moonlight.
 
There will never be an end
To this droning of the surf.
 
 
 
 
 
      I’m surprised I’ve never posted any Stevens here. It’s taken me decades to be at ease with him. To not struggle with him. To just relax in language with him, enjoy his wit and play. When you do that, the rest of him blooms: his works’ spirituality, their unmistakable gnomic presence & impact… many poets are riddlers, but the riddling way Stevens blends slyness, humor, the archaic & the eternal in such a potent way is so attractive & valuable to me.
      I love this poem for too many reasons to list. Let’s start with this: Beaches at night are holy places for me, it’s where the material plane and the world-behind-the-world can merge. Beaches in general are portals. This poem captures some of that heady liminal energy, beautifully so, which taps me down to the roots.
      But there’s something else here that adds another richness to the work for me. The archaisms — “barque”, “phosphor”, “fabliau” — terms like these are always a little quaint and oddly transporting for me in Stevens — they root this ephemeral meditation in the material plane. That last term in particular: it’s important to note that a “fabliau” is, typically, a bawdy metrical tale, particular to early French poetry. I love this about Stevens, how he keeps you off-balance with some bit of semantic dissonance like this. Because “fabliau” undercuts what reads like a haunting, overt meditation on the eternal with a suggestion of something much more profane… night-beach sex maybe? Or just a sexualization of outjutting land meeting sea meeting foam meeting moonlight meeting night? Which itself isn’t so profane after all, but begins to sound instead like a kind of erotic mysticism, a paean to the principle of eros inherent in all creation. Which then leads to the questions: What’s profane, what’s mystical? What’s bawdy, what’s aether?
      Everything, everything, everything. Listen to the ocean’s roar, close your eyes, mix everything together and sing.
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more information about Stevens, please check out poetryfoundation.org’s bio of him.

[posted by C Way at 11:03 PM]

Comments

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Literary Arts ||| poetry ]



Leave a Comment, Thanks!