The Color of a Princess’ Cheek

The inimitable Wallace Stevens. My hero.

I always miss Wallace Stevens’ birthday—October 2—so this year I’m prematurely tipping my hat to the great poet. Thinking of him this evening, I spent some time rifling around in the archives. I do love him so. And he loved all the good things: snow, poetry, honey, walking, ravens, tea…

I found a funny site plastered with first hand remembrances of what WS was like, eating cinnamon buns in Philadelphia in 1928, or breathing deeply in tropical Cuban air, which reminded him of The Tempest. He wished he could meet Greta Garbo.

Neighbor Florence Berkman’s memories are the best: “Every morning, like clockwork, he used to walk down Terry Road about nine o’clock, just about the time I was standing by my kitchen sink. I’d always get a thrill. In the afternoon, he’d walk back, this very slow stride of his. Usually, if it was summer or good weather, I’d be outdoors with some of the neighbors’ children. I’d make them stop and look at him, and I’d say, ‘I want you to remember this is a great poet.'”


Here’s a lovely tidbit from his journal, written on July 17, 1899, when he was 20 and  adrift in summer:

“Smoked a pipe on step of mill, then went through garden with Sally in a half enchantment over the flowers….Mignonette I must remember. It is a little, vigorous flower with a dry, old-fashioned goodness os smell….Snapdragon…is a close-knit, yellow, tumbled sort of thing which if looked at closely reproduces a man in the moon or rather the profile of a Flemish smoker….Petunias cover the garden almost with their white and scarlet faces….Poppies are exquisite. The one I held in my hand was the color of a princess’ cheek….A half-moon was in the middle of the sky as we left the garden and on the whole this has been a charming day.”

I adore him.