Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Emperor of Ice-Cream" by Wallace Stevens

Source: Librivox (mp3)
Length: 1 minute, 25 sec
Reader: Alan Davis-Drake

The poem: The scene is of a funeral. The corpse, an old woman, is covered by a sheet that doesn't quite fit her body. People come to pay their respects and drop off flowers, but there's an air of dressed-up shabbiness about the whole affair. Unusually for a funeral, a man is serving ice cream.

The poem is about the finality of death ("let be be the finale of seem"), yet the titular ice cream emperor lends a bit of ridiculousness that keeps it from being maudlin. Stevens is able to keep the tone of a potentially depressing poem playful through his alliteration and attention to detail ("flowers in last month's newspapers"). This is the kind of funeral I want to be remembered by some day -- one that does not deny the reality of death, but suggests a metaphor for life as ice cream: sweet while it lasts.

Rating: 8/10

The reader:Alan Davis-Drake, as I've said before, is a professional-sounding reader. He reads the words carefully, with an ear for pauses and emphasis. This poem comes from a Librivox collection of Wallace Stevens poems all read by Davis-Drake. If you like this one, I recommend  the entire collection.

Photo from Flickr by iMaxx. Creative Commons license: attribution, no derivative works.

1 comment:

ClaireLA said...

Alan had a wonderful voice and recorded many poems, short stories and books for LibriVox. He also hosted his own podcast. Sadly, Alan died last November (2010). He is very much missed at LibriVox but his recordings will continue to be enjoyed by many.

Here his a tribute to Alan that a fellow reader at LibriVox found:

http://www.lmxac.org/longbranch/docs/Alan%20Drake%20Remembered.pdf