Fabliau of Florida
Barque of phosphor
On the palmy beach,
Move outward into heaven,
Into the alabasters
And night blues.
Foam and cloud are one.
Fill your black hull
With white moonlight.
There will never be an end
To this droning of the surf.
The Place of the Solitaires
Let the place of the solitaires
Be a place of perpetual undulation.
Whether it be in mid-sea
On the dark, green water-wheel,
Or on the beaches,
There must be no cessation
Of motion, or of the noise of motion,
The renewal of noise
And manifold continuation;
And, most, of the motion of thought
And its restless iteration,
In the place of the solitaires,
Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.
Commentary by Mark Strand
Both of these poems wears a disguise -- each draws us to the activity of writing poems, although they seem like they may be about other things. Mainly, the seashore or that liminal space between the sea and the land, the shore. But in fact they are about that liminal space that exists between the poem and reality. The clue to this separate undercurrent in "Fabliau of Florida" rests on the pun on the first and last words of the poem. The first being "barque," the last being "surf." Once this is known, the separate other intention of the poem should be clear. In "The Place of the Solitaires," one only has to remember the perpetual undulation has not only to do with the recurrent motion of the waves but the desired motion of the hand as it writes.
Excerpted from Collected Poems: Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyrightę 1990 by Wallace Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of
Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photo credit: Academy of American Poets.