Monday, July 30, 2007

Wallace Stevens's primitive fantasies

In 1986 Beverly Coyle and I co-edited the complete correspondence of Wallace Stevens and the Cuban editor-poet-impresario, Jose Rodriguez Feo - published by Duke. You can use Google book search to view selected pages from the edition here. (I also wrote about the fascinating Stevens-Rodriguez Feo relationship in a chapter of my Stevens & the Actual World [Princeton, 1991].) Stevens fantasized about his young Cuban friend alternately as a primitive and as a sophisticated intellectual stuck in primitive circumstances. Rodriguez Feo, infatuated with Stevens poetically and personally, wanted to oblige such fantasties as much as he could tolerate, although every so often he resisted, correcting the older man in stern but finally hilarious letters in return. More often, though, he happily described himself at his family villa, trying to read while Lucera the cow and Pompilio the mule made such intellection difficult. Reacting to that scene, Stevens wrote:

Somehow I do not care much about Lucera. I imagine her standing in the bushes at night watching your lamp a little way off and wondering what in the world you are doing. If it was she, she would be eating. No doubt she wonders whether you are eating words. But I take the greatest pride in now knowing Pompilio, who does not have to divest himself of anything to see things as they are. Do please give him a bunch of carrots with my regards. This is much more serious than you are likely to think from the first reading of this letter.

Excerpts from three letters are here--as well as a few other links. The book is called Secretaries of the Moon.