It's a strange courage
you give me, ancient star:
Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!
Shine alone, shine nakedly, shine like bronze,
that reflects neither my face nor any inner part
of my being, shine like fire, that mirrors nothing.
Lend no part to any humanity that suffuses
you in its own light.
Be not a chimera of morning,
Be not an intelligence,
Like a widow's bird
Or an old horse.
-Wallace Stevens (italics by W.C. Williams as quoted by Stevens)
Considering the kind of mental activity beneath the categorical determinants of reason and imagination, typically characterized as a conflict between science and poetry, is a universal mind that is capable of all these faculties to equal degree. It has been noted from Shelley to de Man that the philosophic, logical mind uses as much of poetry as the poetic mind uses of logical system.
To refine my terms, I will introduce a broad definition of poetry from which a discrete definition of poetry wil be deduced. From the discrete, an index of identifiable qualia relevant to the larger, mental system as an expansive faculty will surface.
In his “Defence of Poetry,” Shelley defines the general sense of the poetic as “the expression of the Imagination.” Man’s creative adjustment to circumstance and existence is, in its most general exhibitions, harmonious and resonant of musicality and poetry. Creative adaptation is poetic exhibition.
The undeniable universality of creative adaptation as a faculty of the mind both stretches a nominal ‘poetry’ to fit a limitless range of disciplinary modes and excessively includes the amount of things that can be considered poetry. Like an angel with limitless capacity, Shelley loses the capacity to sense the limitation and strengths afforded by rigidity and finitude.
‘Expression of Imagination’ is overly encompassing a category. It precludes attention to specific factors such as tropology, tension of errant terms, and the expansive nature of poetic thinking. The expansive nature encases the other factors and is central to my definition. Rather than an expression, poetry is an expansion of the imagination.
When we read Williams as read through Stevens we extend them as through a prism. Williams' star was qualitatively naive. Stevens puts up a prism, as his star's light is saturated with qualitative factors, descriptors, modifiers. By expansive provocation, he brings forward the stupidity of Williams' star. An adorable, manly stupidity. That star becomes more radiantly our star. It is natural and dumb, human and unassuming. To create Stevens absorbs and in absorption expands.