Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Variations on a Blue Guitar

They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And I am merely a shadow hunched

Above the arrowy, still strings,
The maker of a thing yet to be made;

The book and bread, things as they are,

In a chiaroscuro where
One sits and plays the blue guitar.

Here I inhale profounder strength
And as I am, I speak and move

And things are as I think they are
And say they are on the blue guitar.

You as you are?  You are yourself.
The blue guitar surprises you.

We shall forget by day, except

The moments when we choose to play
The imagined pine, the imagined jay.

Listening List

Goldberg Variations (1-4), Johann Sebastian Bach


Credits: The quotations are from Wallace Stevens’ The Man with the Blue Guitar, from stanzas i, ix, xiv, xxviii, xxxii, and xxxiii. The image is of Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and can be found here.


The Solitary Walker said...

Just beautiful, Susan.

Scott said...

Susan-Really nice. I liked these ones especially, "The maker of a thing yet to be made.....In a chiaroscuro where one sits and plays the blue guitar" A "chiaroscuro" Wow. What a term. What a place. A place to to remember those moments we chose to play. I think I will like it. The old mans hands alone, sing a song. Beautiful one Sue. Thank you.

Susan Scheid said...

Solitary Walker & Scott: So pleased you both enjoyed this post. Stevens' poem is quite long, and I've often wondered how best to delve into it. This seemed an interesting way to try. I was quite taken, as it seems you both were too (so nice to share this, thank you!), with what can be drawn out of the poem--and Picasso's painting--when you focus on a particular detail.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Here are a few lines from XII that I like:

'Where do I begin and end? And where,/ As I strum the thing, do I pick up/ That which momentously declares/ Itself not to be I and yet/ Must be. It could be nothing else.'

I've only read this poem a few times, quickly. There's a lot going on, a philosophical poem, much more Cubist than Blue Period. I think overall it's a statement about becoming, using the artist as a model - how a person uses structure to know himself but it can never be complete and the equation keeps changing in time. I think this effort at looking at becoming is very ancient too, and Picasso's picture captures that feeling.

Susan Scheid said...

Mark: The lines you have quoted struck me, as well. This is an astounding poem, worthy of many readings, isn't it? In a few lines, you have elucidated what may be the essence of this poem. I can only stand back and admire--then dive in to read again to see what you've already seen. Thank you.

Suze said...

Hello, my dear Sue.

I think my best moment in this post was the imagined jay. He seemed rather real to me, actually.

Susan Scheid said...

Suze: Which is how Stevens ends his poem. Those last lines send off sparks, don't they?

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