Three pieces on RSB that I would like to draw to your attention ...
Compared to writing, everything for Kafka disappoints. He falls short of his vocation and this is why, in what he writes to his friends and lovers and in his diary, it seems he is always in lieu of his own existence. But one should not be too quick to understand the privation to which he seems bound by his desire to write, nor indeed to interpret his Diary or even his literary writings as being marked by despair. His life is lived in the shadow of writing; he remains in writing’s space, in literature’s remove even when he does not write. This is already a great deal.
[Wallace] Stevens is the poet who best expressed for me the situation of the relation of philosophy and poetry, but I am adamant that he should not be read for his philosophy. On the contrary, his poetry has different phases and moments, often very linguistically sensuous, musical and far from abstruse philosophical concerns, particularly the early work. But there is no doubt that much of his poetry, in particular the long, late poems like An Ordinary Evening at New Haven and Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction and the last poems from The Rock give powerful voice to the nature of the relation between words and world, thought and things. This relation is the province of epistemology, in many ways the central area of philosophy: how can a subject know an objective world? Stevens shows the shortcomings of this question and how we can, in a word, overcome epistemology. Thus, Steven’s poetry is a powerful challenge to the way in which philosophy and philosophers see the world, particularly in the Anglo-American tradition.
It is hard for a specifically English ear not to mishear, for example, the prosody of Wallace Stevens. We tend to find in him a relatively regular iambulator. But his own recorded readings transform an English reader’s sense (whatever that English reader’s accent might be) of the prosody. The prosody Stevens’ voice reveals can be distinctive, and hearing it changes the charm of his verse. The metrical poison so many poets imbibe with their Stevens is not his poison, but one drawn out of their own dialect, or their own conditioned expectation, due to the deceptively familiar surface of his poems.