Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437

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.

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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 others commonly ignore—the fire escape that may be a galaxy, the “brown bat” droppings that may be a source of light and warmth—the literal material of the marvelous. In this eternal present, it is abject folly to seek to flee time and change as one might flee a New York winter by vacationing in Florida. Time and change accompany everyone everywhere, and so it is far better freely to accept and to choose change, as Schuyler chooses to “slip into this Ice Age remnant granite boulder,” one of the many left behind by the glaciers in what is now New York’s Central Park.

From the perspective that Schuyler’s poem recommends, there can be no contradictions, no mutually exclusive options, for such things arise only from abstract principles of logic. Just as any two words may be typed beside each other, so any two objects may combine to form new landscapes of new meanings. This is the theme of Schuyler’s closing booklist. “The Great Divorce Has Been Annulle” celebrates the end of paralyzing distinctions and definitions that shrink the world, a world that Schuyler’s poem believes to be a perfect fit.

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