Essay on Imagination in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens

Essay on Imagination in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens

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What are “Castratos of moon-mash?” Who are these seemingly real but only partially embodied figures, which Wallace Stevens mentions almost in passing at line three in his poem, “Men Made Out of Words.” As readers, how are we to understand this short ambivalent phrase, which while confounding us appears to answer the question raised in the previous two lines: “What should we be without the sexual myth, / The human revery or the poem of death” (1-2). Stevens does not elaborate on the image of the moon-mashed castratos he has just presented, but instead using a hyphen formulates and finishes the relatively short ten-line poem. One can argue that this second part of the poem could even be a separate strophe from the lines already noted, because Stevens expands not on the idea of the castratos but the “human revery” from line two. But in this moment when the poem appears to change course, Stevens’s sentences become enjambed and elongated. Surprisingly, this second portion (a total of six and a half lines) contains only three complete sentences, while the first part (two and a half lines) consists of only one and the intriguing phrase on which we began our deliberation of Stevens.

We are the “Castratos of moon-mash” Stevens argues, if we are without revery, which he attempts to characterize through the remainder of the poem. “Men Made Out of Words” is an articulation of abstraction; Stevens at as his philosophical best, but not necessarily his poetic, albeit the poem is still a work of profound expression. The revery he calls upon is largely absent from the poem, instead we observe a philosophical and psychological rundown of what revery entails. The poem maintains an aloof distance from what is precisely implied, causing us...

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...I, (5-6). Though we have traveled imaginative adventures to the land of Palestine as well as to the time of Jove, we are bound and brought back to the facts and “problems of the normal” (Imagination as Value, 156). The imagination has brought us like the woman in the poem to the realities of being, where we are “unsponsored” and “free” (VIII, 7), having only it to guide us. Because we have let the imagination diffuse into our souls and direct our understanding of reality, we are not “Castratos of moon-mash.” Our reveries and eccentric propositions are not merely defeats and dreams, but realizations of consciousness.

Works Cited

Keats, John. John Keats – The Major Works. Ed. Elizabeth Cook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Stevens, Wallace. Poems from the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets. Selected by Helen Vendler. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

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