“ The Idea of Order at Key West”
Wallace Stevens, a imaginative poet, created a wonderful world of desire in the poem “The Idea
of Order at Key West”. Line after line, new perspectives and curious thoughts popped into my head.
Stevens creates the desire to want to decipher his puzzle of a poem. Stevens is a poet of many themes
and perspectives, which led me to understand why I was coming up with so many different meanings
behind this poem. In this particular poem, Key West being the muse, Stevens writes down the keys
to the mystery, only to be unlocked if you dig deep into his poem. However, once unlocked,
understanding the passion and mystery with each written word is a whole other activity.
The speaker opens up the poem stating that “She sang beyond the genius of the
sea.”Automatically, I am hit with a vision of a women standing on the shore, running away from the
water as is grew closer to her toes, laughter being the song the sea couldn’t amount to. The speaker then
goes on to say that she was not mind nor voice. Nonexistent? No. This presence was very much alive in
the sense of motion. The speaker, draw in by it's “empty...mimic motion”, somehow understands the
movement. Emphasis on there being no physical form, but a being none the less. This possibly gives
the speaker a sense of comfort. Being surrounded by a presence the speaker knew, but had a great
desire to know more about it. In return, the speaker and company have empathy, constantly hearing a
cry. The focus on a feminine figure was very obvious to me in the beginning of this poem. However, as
the poem carries along, I am torn between what I think and what Stevens meant it to be.
Continuing along, the presence becomes more mysterious. An open book for she was not a
mask no more than was the sea. Water, for the most part, is a transparent substance. It makes sense that
the speaker would use this metaphor, being in Key West where the water is crystal. The speaker
makes it apparent that the sound is not that of the sea, but of the presence, “The song and water were
not medleyed sound”. The speaker starts to clearly separate the presence from the surroundings of
Key West. On the other hand, using the surroundings, the speaker defines the presence. Up to this point
in the poem, I was sure that the feminine figure he so carefully described was a love of his. A women
he longed for, but couldn't have. Once I read “ she was the maker of the song she sang”, I changed my
mind about who the muse was.
It made sense that now, the feminine figure could possibly be a depiction of Mother Nature. A
women who controlled the motion of the waves but herself had no motion. She was the cry they knew
but was not of there own. The song was not the water, it was the wind as it crashed itself against the
water, always pushing against that barrier. Every and all aspect led to this idea that the love was not a
love of a woman, but a love for the nature of women itself. The presence, something much larger than
him, controlling all of the wonderful things he so desired and felt for. I was so sure about this notion,
because I felt reassured by a verse. When the speaker said “it was she and not the sea we heard” I knew
I had come across it all. Despite my reassurance, I instantly withdrew that notion when I came upon
this verse, “repeated in a summer without end”. If the womanly figure was Mother Nature, then seasons
would not be an issue. I was then left to recollect my thoughts.
Sound, one of our five sense that allows us to soak up the chirping of the birds, crashing of the
waves, and the beating of hearts. It seems to be the main drive of the speaker. Everything that the
speaker explains comes from the song of Key West, the sound of Key West. Not knowing where
it is from or what it is, the speaker so infatuatedly talks...
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