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Published: 26-11-2019

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Imagination vs. Reality: “The Poems of Our Climate” and “The Snow Man”

Wallace Stevens is identified for his philosophical meditations on the dual nature of existence all through his poetry. According to Stevens, poetry must not be concerned with either the physique or the thoughts, but rather “an interdependence of the imagination and reality as equals.” It is rather tough to interlock the two concepts as they stand on completely opposite poles of the human psyche. The affiliation between imagination and reality is what Stevens explores and attempts to define and clarify: “Stevens’ poetry is both surreal (philosophical understanding for the lost) and true (the practical conclusion that Stevens can be just as lost as everyone else” (Zarzicki 12). Through the use of natural imagery and contemplative language in his two poems, “The Poems of Our Climate” and “The Snow Man,” the intricate and convoluted dualism of human existence becomes graspable.

The intricate duality of the physical and the metaphysical is portrayed in “The Poems of Our Climate.” In the very first stanza, Stevens describes the physical look of the scene by way of the use of pure and serene words, such as “brilliant,” “clear,” “snowy,” “white,” “newly-fallen,” “cold,” and “porcelain.” Through this use of diction, Stevens illustrates a world that is beautifully silent and untouched due to its disassociation with human existence. However, this atmosphere is not best to him as full detachment is not desirable: “Pink and white carnations—one desires so much much more than that” (6-7), “Here the object—a bowl of pink and white carnations—promises an idealization, and just about delivers it, only to then provoke dissatisfaction” (Smith 47). There is both an allure and repulsion to a world that is untouched by humans.

Stevens’ option of diction provides the scene with beauty and purity but also with apathy and distaste, which exemplifies the conflicting and bewildering partnership in between imagination and reality. In the second stanza, Stevens displays the impossibility of reality without having imagination: “in a world of white, a world of clear water, brilliant-edged, nonetheless a single would want far more, a single would need to have a lot more, a lot more than a world of white and snowy scents” (14-17). Even though the human imagination can develop deformities and complications on its own, it is nevertheless deemed displeasing and unlivable. The phrase “snowy scents” is contradictory as snow does not contain a smell, and the “world of white” is blank with practically nothing to exhibit. There is no pleasure supplied for the human senses in this globe, as a result it is not satisfying or correct. Stevens additional explains the distastefulness of a pure planet in the final stanza as he states, “There would nevertheless stay the never-resting thoughts, so that one particular would want to escape… the imperfect is our paradise” (18-21). Human existence calls for continuous fluctuation in between imagination and reality in order to function. Neither sector can be entirely apprehended or understood, they just both need to have to be present in some form.

Stevens also states, “The imperfect is so hot in us” (24). The presence of the word “hot” straight opposes the cold winter imagery inside the 1st two stanzas of the poem, which further exemplifies the paradox of life: “Given our insatiable desire, the nature of our never-resting minds, and our inability to get the words proper, we have only a single choice: to embrace the imperfect as “our paradise.” And as soon as we have embraced the imperfect as our paradise, its bitterness becomes much more and more compelling. ‘The imperfect is so hot in us’ that it becomes a type of insatiable wish in itself. Receiving it incorrect, Stevens provides, is what it means to have a human thoughts. And the functioning of the mind offers its own delight” (Skorczewski 103). He concludes the poem with the statement that the imperfect “lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds” (25). Words are derived from the imagination, but utilised to describe elements of reality. Although such words are “flawed,” which means they can not fully unify imagination and reality, they are nonetheless crucial towards functional human existence as a result reality and imagination have to be employed concurrently to enable for a desirable life.

Even though “The Poems of Our Climate” promotes the interweaving of imagination and reality, “The Snow Man” suggests full detachment from imagination and the active thoughts. As noticed previously in “Poems of Our Climate,” Stevens uses natural imagery in “The Snow Man” to describe a pure and serene winter atmosphere: “pine-trees crusted with snow…junipers shagged with ice…spruces rough in the distant glitter” (1-four). He insists that one “must have a mind of winter,” a mind free of any subjectivity or warmth the senses: “he accepts and enjoys this bare scene, and there is practically nothing specific in the spot of his expertise, or in himself for experiencing it there” (Cook 48). The thoughts is active and always adding, which is what influences human perception: “winter words for wintry matter, as sophisticated as any decoration, involve our feelings as straight as image can…it entails our minds” (Tindall 23). In order to establish a thoughts of winter, one must banish the imaginative mind and concentrate only on the concrete, emotionless elements of the physical globe.

The imagery is substantially simplified and subdued in the second half of the poem as sensory richness deteriorates and the mind becomes colder: “In the sound of a couple of leaves, which is the sound of the land, complete of the same wind that is blowing in the same bare place” (9-12). Stevens’ description of the scene of the poem is austere and subdued, which is required towards the establishment of a thoughts of winter. The final stanza takes a turn on the poem as a whole. Stevens introduces “the nothing at all,” a revelation of nothingness in which winter evokes. In this stanza, “there are two sorts of nothingness—‘the nothingness that is’ and ‘nothing,’ which is the absence of one thing. The higher lack is the latter—the absence of imagination in the man who ‘beholds practically nothing that is not there’” (Oster 159). When one particular stops making the planet they perceive, the planet loses its meaning, which Stevens structurally portrays as the poem ends after the speaker’s inventive principle of imagination has disappeared. Via the placement of the word “the” prior to “nothing” and “nothingness,” the concept becomes conceptualized, and affirms yet limits the procedure of decreation: “He (the speaker) has turn into the snow man, and he knows winter with a mind of winter, knows it in his strictest reality, stripped of all imagination and human feeling. But at that point when he sees the winter scene reduced to absolute reality, as the object not of the mind, but of the ideal perceptual eye that sees ‘nothing that is not there,’ then the scene has turn out to be ‘the nothing at all that is’” (Pack 68). By way of this poignant ideology, Stevens untangles the paradoxical jumble of human existence, permitting the reader to greater comprehend the dualism of perception.

Stevens’ language in “The Snow Man” is demanding as the beginning words of the poem, “One have to,” forcefully prepare the reader for what must happen. However, Stevens does not intend to advocate something he intends to suggest the reader stop and observe their mind and to try to uncover the genuine satisfaction of the physical world outside of the imagination: “the only life worth living is the one particular generated from the imagination, not the scientific, unemotional mode that most people are forced to adopt…this hypothesis can look ironic. If the reader is the snow man, then appreciation for the all-natural globe will spring forth with tremendous ease” (Zarzicki 19). Stevens shifts amongst different theories of imagination and reality and their affects on the human psyche, which exemplifies the mercurial nature of existence.

Stevens emphasizes the greater value of the imagination in this poem, even so each poles of the duality nonetheless remain, which illustrates the complicated inseparability of the physical and metaphysical in every day life. Both “The Poems of Our Climate” and “The Snow Man” explore the oscillation between imagination and reality when meditating on human existence. Each poems also do so by presenting a reality barren of humanity, which is portrayed as incomplete and hollow, but also stunning. No matter how difficult one particular tries to diminish the inventive thoughts, imagination and reality will often be interlaced, which complicates but beautifies the duality of human perception.
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