Dec
31

“Regardless of whether the year is new or old”

On December 27, 1954, Wallace Stevens wrote, “After listening to Silent Night for ninety-nine times, I am really a bit relieved that Christmas is over” (Letters 862), and I’m with him on that one. The beginning of 2013, however, means that I really need to get going on writing my thesis itself, and that it will all be over in May — both of which are terrifying and eagerly anticipated at the same time. To take a break, I thought I’d collect a few references to the new year from Stevens’ Letters and put them out here for you and yours.

Stevens was in New York City to witness the beginning of the twentieth century. On December 31, 1900, in his apartment  at 37 West 9th St (Letters 43), he wrote: “Quarter-of-twelve. The noise is rather confused + sounds like a horse-fly buzzing around the room. Ferries are tooting + chimes have broken out.” And then, as the hour struck, “Horrid din — The Hour strikes — like roar of heavy express — or rolling of great mill — Chimes incoherent, Voices — Mass of sound — like strong wind through telegraph wires. January 1 — 1901 — Bon Jour” (Letters 49). He went on, in the cynical mode typical of his 21-year-old self (though not exactly rare as he grew older), “The temptation to make resolutions is tremendous — but that’s the one temptation I find easy to resist, and I do not intend to make any kind of attempt at turning over a new leaf.”

As he accumulated correspondents and faraway friends throughout his lifetime, Stevens often sent New Year’s greetings along to them. My favorite is from a letter to Wilson Taylor, written December 27, 1954, and I extend it to my loved ones as well: “Good luck to you always, regardless of whether the year is new or old” (Letters 862).