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Tuesday, February 17, 2009 

of the Rock

A discussion of Stevens's late poem "The Rock" (1954) in Wallace Stevens: A World of Transforming Shapes, by Alan D. Perlis, Bucknell University Press, 1976, p. 120:

For Stevens, the poem "makes meanings of the rock." In the mind, "its barrenness becomes a thousand things/And so exists no more." In fact, in a peculiar irony that only a poet with Stevens's particular notion of the imagination's function could develop, the rock becomes the mind itself, shattered into such diamond-faceted brilliance that it encompasses all possibilities for human thought:
The rock is the gray particular of man's life,
The stone from which he rises, up—and—ho,
The step to the bleaker depths of his descents ...

The rock is the stern particular of the air,
The mirror of the planets, one by one,
But through man's eye, their silent rhapsodist,

Turquoise the rock, at odious evening bright
With redness that sticks fast to evil dreams;
The difficult rightness of half-risen day.

The rock is the habitation of the whole,
Its strength and measure, that which is near, point A
In a perspective that begins again

At B: the origin of the mango's rind.

                    (Collected Poems, 528)

A mathematical version of
this poetic concept appears
in a rather cryptic note
from 1981 written with
Stevens's poem in mind:

For some explanation of the
groups of 8 and 24
motions referred to in the note,
see an earlier note from 1981.

For the Perlis "diamond facets,"
see the Diamond 16 Puzzle.

For a much larger group
of motions, see
Solomon's Cube.

As for "the mind itself"
and "possibilities for
human thought," see
Geometry of the I Ching.