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Shared Aspects of a Musical Poetics: Juxtaposing Stevens with Igor Stravinsky

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The Poetic Music of Wallace Stevens

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature ((PASTMULI))

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Abstract

Around the same time that Stevens in his letters ruminated about setting up an academic Chair of Poetry, Igor Stravinsky delivered a series of lectures at Harvard as the Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer. This chapter, principally authored by Goldfarb, takes up the shared aspects of Stravinsky’s and Stevens’s musical poetics. Its first section comprises a brief historical and contextual introduction, which is followed by a close consideration of the parallels in their respective poetics. In the third and final section, we demonstrate how an understanding of Stravinsky’s poetics, and of the ideas Stevens and Stravinsky seem to have held in common, might yield a deeper grasp of the musicality that characterizes Stevens’s verse. We look at a range of poems that exhibit the two artists’ shared ideas about birdsong (expanding upon work in the earlier chapter); about variety and unity (the importance of variations on a theme and the relation between the one and the many); and about what both Stravinsky and Stevens have to say on musical and poetic ways of finding a “center” at the heart of their respective poetics.

All creation presupposes at its origin a sort of appetite that is brought on by the foretaste of discovery. This foretaste of the creative act accompanies an intuitive grasp of an unknown entity already possessed but not yet intelligible, an entity that will not take definite shape except by the action of a constantly vigilant technique.

—Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a discussion of Stravinsky’s Petrushka in relation to Stevens’s poetry, see Linebarger; and for an interpretation of Stravinsky’s “firebird” image in relation to the “firecat” in Stevens’s “Earthy Anecdote” (CPP 3), see Eeckhout 185–86.

  2. 2.

    Calling him his “Russian philosopher-friend,” Stravinsky writes of Souvtchinsky’s ideas about “the chronos of music,” “His thinking is so closely akin to mine that I can do no better than to summarize his thesis here” (Poetics 29–30). Robert Craft, too, as colleague and friend of Stravinsky, worked closely with the composer and subsequently edited many volumes of his correspondence.

Works Cited

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  • Linebarger, David M. “‘Orchestrating’ Stravinsky: Petrushka’s Ghost and Stevens’ ‘The Comedian as the Letter C.’” The Wallace Stevens Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 71–87.

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  • ———. Wallace Stevens: The Later Years, 1923–1955. William Morrow, 1988.

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  • ———. Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons. Translated by Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl, Harvard UP, 1970.

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Correspondence to Bart Eeckhout .

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Eeckhout, B., Goldfarb, L. (2022). Shared Aspects of a Musical Poetics: Juxtaposing Stevens with Igor Stravinsky. In: The Poetic Music of Wallace Stevens. Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-07032-7_6

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