Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

As do all of Schuyler’s best poems, “Sorting, wrapping, packing, stuffing” radiates an unselfconscious love for the world and all its minutiae. Its uniquely energized way of paying attention to its subject matter advocates the dignity of mere being. Schuyler’s voice is one that rejoices in the transitory nature of things, the inevitable, unpredictable differences between one day and the next that so many other poets lament. Appearing frivolous at first, Schuyler’s poems turn out to be meticulously, movingly faithful life studies of our extraordinary ordinary lives, studies in which it is a joy simply to say the names of things out loud.

For Schuyler, the acts of seeing and imagining are simultaneous, virtually identical in their purpose of recognizing the dignity of things and nature, recognizing, in keeping with this poem’s title, that each object—stone or weed or article of soiled clothing—is a thing unto itself, larger in its reality than any abstract category in which we might wish to wrap and pack it. The stuff of life is just that—stuff. This stuff cannot be estranged from the human heart (itself a mundane reality of “blood and thump”), which so fervently and so mysteriously cherishes it. All dwell together in a time that is eternally the present. Schuyler rejects both nostalgia and anticipation as attitudes that subordinate the world to fixed interpretations, rejects them in favor of celebration, finding in those things that...

(The entire section is 437 words.)