Words of Summer

August 9, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally tonight, NewsHour regular Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States, suggests how to while away a lovely summer evening.

ROBERT PINSKY: There’s a peculiar association between summertime and reading. Many of us think of summer as when we will catch up with books we have been meaning to read.

Sometimes, “summer reading” indicates triviality, the pleasures of fluff.

In his beautiful poem, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm,” Wallace Stevens associates summer and reading, in a way far different, and more penetrating, than the notion of brightly-colored paperbacks and magazines on the beach:


The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became his 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 most 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 wish you some of that feeling.