Chanson Philosophique

By Timothy Steele b. 1948 Timothy Steele
The nominalist in me invents
A life devoid of precedents.
The realist takes a different view:
He claims that all I feel and do
Billions of others felt and did
In history’s Pre-me period.

Arguing thus, both voices speak
A partial truth. I am unique,
Yet the unceasing self-distress
Of desire buffets me no less
Than it has other sons of man
Who’ve come and gone since time began.

The meaning, then, of this dispute?
My life’s a nominal/real pursuit,
Which leaves identity clear and blurred,
In which what happens has occurred
Often and never—which is to say,
Never to me, or quite this way.

Timothy Steele, “Chanson Philosophique” from Sapphics and Uncertainties: Poems 1970-1986. Copyright � 1986, 1995 by Timothy Steele. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press, www.uapress.com.

Source: Poetry (August 1983).

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This poem originally appeared in the August 1983 issue of Poetry magazine

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August 1983
 Timothy  Steele

Biography

Timothy Steele was born in 1948 in Burlington, Vermont, and holds degrees from Stanford University and Brandeis University, where he studied with the poet J.V. Cunningham. The influence of formal masters like Cunningham and Yvor Winters, a force at Stanford for much of the early 20th century, is apparent in Steele’s poetry, which is notable for its allegiance to traditional forms, meters, and rhyme schemes. Though Steele has . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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