The after-effect of the force of the archive is a kind of ghosting: it hints too uncannily at history reified, at history returned to the present. The voice is physically indexed, it leaves a residue in a way it simply can’t in the ordination of the library. Nowhere can one feel this more than in the archives of poetry read aloud, that most ephemeral event.
Having consoled myself in damp pubs in London, creaked across frozen lakes in the deep freeze of Minnesota, and coughed my way through Philadelphian afternoons that could never decide between rain or sleet, I can tell you: there are many different kinds of cold. It’s something Wallace Stevens knew well. His poem, “The Snow Man,” is probably the most famous winter poem in modern poetry, laying before us a “distant glitter” and, within it, the full presence of winter’s unique nothingness.
Stevens seems to have enjoyed facing the difficult dilemma of writing a poem knowing that, when it comes to the actual, “sense exceeds all metaphor” and it “exceeds the heavy changes of the light.” He loves struggling to come to terms with the limitations of language.