Nomad Exquisite

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Nomad Exquisite is a poem by Wallace Stevens originally published in Harmonium in 1923.

Here are some comments and questions as a way to begin thinking about the poem:

This 14-line, three-stanza poem does not follow a regular rhyme scheme or have a definitive meter, but it still relies heavily on repeating sounds—the alliterative Fs and Gs stand out particularly. The speaker hides until the last stanza, appearing as the "me" out of which "forms" are being flung; but does the speaker assimilate the reader, as it is in fact the reader who is "beholding" the poem, reading it into being in the present moment? Who is the "beholder," anyway? A third person? The eyes of the speaker? The eyes of "me," the reader? Who is the subject of the poem, and what is its object? This might be a poem about multiple subjects and multiple objects—a project of embodying multiplicities or pluralities. And if so, is "Florida"—replete with alligators and lush foliage—a red herring of sorts, a false target? This poem does not transport a place to us—or us to a place—as much as evacuate the place of its geographical space and turn it instead into a screen on which one can picture colors and images, or an audio speaker out of which one can hear sounds, or a postcard presenting a moment—a mere transfer of words, sounds, images, and feeling. This poem is best read as a montage of hints or innuendoes. Is there nothing to be fleshed out beyond the surface content of the words, which is to say, the form of the poem: 14 short lines, some nonsensical, others clear only to end in obscurity or abstraction? The poem seduces readers into its absurdity, but in so doing it relies on accessible—if ultimately arbitrary—points of entry (Florida’s ecology and religious language, most readily apparently). It repeats in order to emphasize, but what is finally emphasized is an ambience of repetition.

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