Episode 9: Josh Cohen prescribes Wallace Stevens’ THE PLAIN SENSE OF THINGS

THE PLAIN SENSE OF THINGS

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

JOSH COHEN is Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London and a psychoanalyst in private practice. He is the author of books and articles on modern literature, cultural theory and psychoanalysis, including How to Read Freud (Granta, 2005). His latest book is The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark.

Read the tiny Lydia Davis story ‘What She Knew” mentioned in our discussion.

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