Hurricane Ike, part two: parl-parling Wallace Stevens

Hurricane Ike, part two: parl-parling Wallace Stevens

That’s Ike at 4:15 local time, with the eye just north of Pinar del Rio in western Cuba. Wind speeds increased here in Key West throughout the morning and early afternoon, with sustained winds of around 40 mph and a gust of 60 mph being recorded at Key West airport between one and two o’clock. Most of the island lost power during this apparent peak of intensity, but it has returned to old town by now. There is evidence of minor flooding along the south side of the island, from the southernmost point to Louie’s Backyard to the Casa Marina, but it doesn’t appear that significant damage will result. We watched a few surfers near the pier at the western end of the Casa Marina, and got to thinking about Wallace Stevens, who used to stay at the grand hotel during his many visits to Key West in the 1920s and 1930s. Stevens had a fetish for things tropical; his relish for this sort of event could move him to delightful gibberish:


     All afternoon the gramaphone
     Parl-parled the West-Indian weather.
     The zebra leaves, the sea
     And it all spoke together.

     The many-stanzaed sea, the leaves
     And it all spoke together.
     But you, you used the word,
     Your self its honor.

     All afternoon the gramaphoon,
     All afternoon the gramaphoon,
     The world as word,
     Parl-parled the West-Indian hurricane.

     The world lives as you live,
     Speaks as you speak, a creature that
     Repeats its vital words, yet balances
     The syllable of a syllable.

From Parts of a World, as printed in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, a Borzoi Book by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

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