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Write a critical appreciation of the poem "The Idea of Order at Key West" by Wallace...

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afkarahmed | eNoter

Posted September 12, 2013 at 8:04 PM via iOS

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Write a critical appreciation of the poem "The Idea of Order at Key West" by Wallace Stevens.

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appletrees | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted September 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM (Answer #1)

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Unlike many of Stevens' other well-known poems, this one eschews his usual surreal and metaphorical language to descrube in fairly simple terms the experience of witnessing a singer's performance by the sea. Stevens refers to "we" several times, describing the sounds and emotions evoked by the singer's voice and affect. The poet also creates a persona, "Ramon Fernandez," who is questioned for insights on the thoughts the narrator is having about death, solitude and eternity (themes that recur throughout Stevens' poetry). The theme of solitude is also what prompts the creation of "Ramon Fernandez" and the narrator's need for validation of this shared experience. One critic, Jmes Longenbach, says that Stevens insisted Fernandez was a "caricature" but that he was actually a literary critic with controversial political views, and that this colors the poem's meaning. The last two stanzas seem to be asking for insights and continuing a conversation between the narrator and Fernandez:  

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

In asking Fernandez to explain why the lights of the town "ordered" the sea (created a visual illusion of "order" amid an atmosphere of chaos and wild nature), the narrator (Stevens) suggests it is the "maker's rage" that causes this, that "ourselves and our origins" are ideas which can be deeply pondered after such an emotional shared experience (the sight of the landscape after a singr's moving performance), even if no clear answers can be found.

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