(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Although many of the poems of Harmonium preach a yielding to reality, “Tea at the Palaz of Hoon” is an exception. Hoon is a vaguely Eastern potentate who creates a world from his mind and takes pleasure in inhabiting it.

“Hoon” may suggest “hero-moon”; in Stevens’s early poems, moon and sun translate very roughly into imagination and reality. Hoon speaks about his sense of self and world, which is virtually solipsistic—he concludes that the self is the only reality. He is enclosed in trappings of royalty, “in purple.” His majesty, even his divinity, is recognized by the world in which he moves: Ointment is sprinkled on his beard, and hymns are sung. The second part of the poem, however, explains the source of the recognition: “Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,/ And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.” He is enclosed in his self-made world, creator of his own landscape:

    what I sawOr heard or felt came not but from myself;And there I found myself more truly and more  strange.

The solipsistic world is not limited and limiting, as one might expect. Rather, to live in a world of one’s own making results in a rediscovery, or reinvention, of self.

One cannot conclude, however, that Stevens is advocating solipsism in this poem. The persona of Hoon represents an extreme position on the scale of relations between imagination and reality; Stevens explores the world of a mind given over wholly to the imagination. Moreover, the speaker insists on the primacy of the imagined world, rather than the merely demonstrated. “Not less was I myself,” he claims in the first stanza, and “I found myself more truly” in the last line.

This poem anticipates Stevens’s later comfortable style of three-line sections. It approaches iambic pentameter, often his preferred meter, in most of the lines, but it does not use rhyme. Like others of Stevens’s earlier, more formal poems (including “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”), it is divided into two rhetorical parts; in this poem, the first part poses questions about the origin of Hoon’s world, and the second answers them.

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bates, Milton J. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Bloom, Harold. Wallace Stevens. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.

Cleghorn, Angus J. Wallace Stevens’ Poetics: The Neglected Rhetoric. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

Critchley, Simon. Things Merely Are: Philosophy in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Ford, Sara J. Gertrude Stein and Wallace Stevens: The Performance of Modern Consciousness. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Leggett, B. J. Late Stevens: The Final Fiction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.

Morse, Samuel F. Wallace Stevens: Poetry as Life. New York: Pegasus, 1970.

Santilli, Kristine S. Poetic Gesture: Myth, Wallace Stevens, and the Motions of Poetic Language. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Sharpe, Tony. Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.