In "Of Modern Poetry," Stevens describes the purpose of modern poetry given what the audience knows and values. Modern poetry must be different from traditional poetry, because people of his time perceive themselves and their world differently than the people of earlier times. Stevens suggests that war, like other changes, have affected what people believe. Poetry must reflect to its audience what they want to hear. It must show them that the order, meaning and value they need is real, in so much as their minds both need it and can create it.
OF MODERN POETRY
The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one. The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
Sounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
Containing the mind, below which it cannot descend,
Beyond which it has no will to rise.
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man s...
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...resent in his poem all specific examples. Therefore, it is interesting to notice that he finds women as representative of humanity as men. Again, this reflects the beliefs of people of his time -- social roles of men and women and social propriety of the past were not held by modern people. Poets must recognize this change and reflect the sensibilities of their audiences.
The audience of modern poetry should be the mind, the contents of modern poetry should be from the mind, and the source of modern poetry is the mind of the poet. Humans can act on their ability to create a new conceptual and cultural play derived from values and truths of their minds. Writing modern poetry, likewise is poets acting on their ability to create from the mind and respond to people who have learned to look to themselves for order and meaning. Thus, the poem is of the act of the mind.
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