J. S. Leonard and C. E. Wharton: On "A Clear Day and No Memories"

"Nothingness" and the "sense" of "being" (as a vitalness) again commingle in the late poem (1955) "A Clear Day and No Memories":

Today the air is clear of everything.

It has no knowledge except of nothingness

And it flows over us without meanings,

As if none of us had ever been here before

And are not now: in this shallow spectacle,

This invisible activity, this sense.

Once more there is a winter integration--a "sense" in which the past (with its fictions) has vanished with the "sun" that once illuminated it. The clear air of the present moment has "no knowledge except of nothingness / And it flows over us without meanings." The indifference of the air, to the present as well as the past, is an indifference to the human, reminiscent of the indifferent night ("the color of the heavy hemlocks") in the early poem "Domination of Black" (1916). But as in "Domination," the indifferent (what seems objective) is so only in our apprehension of it. By the doubled meaning of the lines, the clear air, in the "invisible activity" of air, "flows over" this "invisible activity" which is ourselves. As he often does, Stevens exposes the full shape of the poem by the turn of the last line. Our "invisible activity" (which again is like the light that "adds nothing . . . ") is not simply a sense; it is "this sense": of what was, of what is, and of the indifferent "sense" the air.

From The Fluent Mundo: Wallace Stevens and the Structure of Reality. University of Georgia Press.

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Criticism Overview
Title J. S. Leonard and C. E. Wharton: On "A Clear Day and No Memories" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author J. S. Leonard and C. E. Wharton Criticism Target Wallace Stevens
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Dec 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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