The Plain Sense of Things by Wallace Stevens

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“The Plain Sense of Things” by Wallace Stevens delicately explores a certain dualism that he finds in creativity by exploring the conflict between creativity and the lack thereof. He speaks of the point where creativity ends, where it dries up and becomes “inanimate,” but then goes on to point out how necessary that point of null inspiration is in the larger cycle of things. He uses the period between fall and winter, when the leaves have fallen and there is, as he explains, “A plain sense of things,” a “blank cold,” and a “sadness without cause” as a way to represent this stagnation of creativity that he views as a necessity. He writes the poem without rhyme, and while the lines seem to try to pull themselves toward ten syllables, there is little evidence of the iambic pentameter required for blank verse or any other meter. The poem is filled with redundancies and longer, awkward words (“a repetition / in a repetitiousness,” “required, as necessity requires,” “inanimate,” “inert,” “adjective,” etc.) that are hard for the reader to say and make the reader feel uncomfortable, leaving him/her thirsty for fluidity. Wallace begins the poem with leaves. The words of the first line reference a point after the leaves have fallen; Wallace slyly drops them in our minds by referring to their absence and thus begins the poem with an image of life, of nature, of a moving energy. The reader is moved rather quickly away from that, however, as the leaves have already fallen, and the second line moves directly into the stagnation—this “plain sense of things”—after which the poem itself is named. Then, in the third line, we are given a rather blunt definition of this “plain sense of things”: it is “an end of imagination.” Rather than dance ... ... middle of paper ... ...n had / Itself to be imagined.” through the poems backwards way of evidencing through what isn’t there, the poem begins to speak very powerfully of the power of imagination. Imagination can imagine itself and it’s absence; it almost borders a power of self-creation. This could echo the Christian God’s statement, “I am that I am” — God’s power to name himself, to create and define both Himself and his absence. In the final stanza, Wallace takes the struggle between creativity and its absence one step further, stating that the absence is “required, as necessity requires.” By doing this, Wallace brings the poem to an inescapable dualism and, in some ways, brings elements of hope into an otherwise dreary reality. The absence of creativity is required in the same way that winter must come before spring, and its requirement serves as a testament to it power and beauty.
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