I have been thinking a lot about Wallace Stevens for the past few days. As one does. His poem “The Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock” has been on my mind. Today, I think I’ll write an imitation. Or a parody. Or, well, a poem like his.
First, here’s his poem:
The Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock
Only, here and there, an old writer,
Stevens sees what happens when we let the mundane take over all the wild possibilities. What are the wild possibilities in the classroom? At first, I had the teachers “droning” and the list of things the teachers weren’t doing was more realistic, but then I took a second look and noticed that “white nightgowns” are unremarkable and, more importantly, non-judgmental… that is, until you read the rest of the poem. Teachers lecturing probably won’t catch anyone’s attention in an early line – it’s what we assume high school teachers do – but the wilder possibilities in the next three lines should change that.
In the next three lines Stevens has a careful pattern – pulling a colour from one line into the next – and all these colours exist very firmly in the realm of possibility. It took me several tries to find a way to make my phrases do the same thing. In fact, only at the last minute did I realize that I could replace the “rings” in his poem with “students” in mine. That opened things up for me.
I love the lines about the “socks of lace” and the “beaded ceintures” because “socks of lace” pulls my attention when “lace socks” might not. And I imagine that Stevens originally wrote “beaded belts” (nice alliteration, Wallace!) and then revised it to something more unusual and evocative. (“Damn the alliteration, I’ll use ‘ceintures!’ That’ll get ’em!”) I actually started my line writing “Fascinators of feathers” then realized that “socks” are mundane and switched to “hats.” I couldn’t quite find an equivalent for “ceintures” but I decided “waistcoat” was near enough and I like the assonance that came from rainbow.
Uranus and bubbles just came to me. Probably because another blogger I read recently (can’t remember which one – sorry!) wrote about talking with her nephew and Uranus came up.
Finally, who might replace the old drunk sailor? Who in our school was dreaming big dreams on Friday afternoon? Well, a writing teacher, obviously. Someone who has journeyed and knows about possibilities. (Yes, yes, I’m biased.) And a reference to our absent principal, who allows us to play, followed by the red weather line because a) I didn’t know what else to write and b) I like a nod to the original when I write imitations.
I’m not sure I knew how much went into this until I wrote it down. Well, no wonder it’s hard for my students. WHEW!