As Wallace Stevens Once Put It: Hi!

Elisa Gabbert in The New York Times:

Poker players have an expression for that moment when you look at your cards and discover you’ve been dealt the luckiest possible hand. It’s called “waking up with aces.” This reminds me of the way that the first lines of poems seem to come out of nowhere. It’s true for the poet, the lines just arriving, as if by dictation or angelic message — as Eliot writes in his essay on Blake, “The idea, of course, simply comes.” And it’s true for the reader, who can only have the same in medias res experience, encountering a line at the top of a page. There’s a shock to this unveiling. All the emails I get begin with some variation on “I hope this finds you well,” but a poem can begin in any kind of way. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.” “Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness.” There’s a Wallace Stevens poem that starts “Hi!”

“In the middle of our life’s journey,/I found myself in a dark wood.” That’s the most literal translation of the first two lines of Dante’s “Inferno.”

More here.