Most of Wallace Stevens’s poetry I don’t understand. Some of it I do understand. The best of his poems are so mysterious and beautiful that they quietly overwhelm me. They make me feel like I’m staring at an icon, or a mandala, and intuiting depth even though I don’t fully comprehend.

Take this poem, which I read last night:

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

I will never write anything that good. Read it out loud, catching its rhythms. It’s serenely spectacular.