In her nimbly rhymed and deftly redefining ‘This’, Anne Stevenson finds synonyms for an erotic ‘X’ that might also be ways of describing the poem she is writing:
This is negation of adulthood's rule
that talks by rote.
This is travelling out to where
a curved adventure
splashes on planes of sunlight to become
one perfectly remembered room…
The ‘curved adventure’ is a phrase that surfs the off-rhyming wave of sound coiled up in ‘travelling out to where’, and it seems peculiarly right for this ‘travelling’, daring poet that ‘where’ should find a sonic and semantic companion in the onward-moving word ‘adventure’. Whatever the overt meaning of the ‘curved adventure’, and sexual intercourse has to be a principal contender, it acts as an invitation to us to attend to the curving shape of the lines themselves; the poem's ‘adventure’ bequeaths ‘one perfectly remembered room’ that is also ‘the always has been’, ‘home’, and a place that houses and unites ‘I and you’.
The lyric's own ‘curved adventure’ acts out the plot of many Stevenson poems. Her poetry searches for ‘home’, for unity, whether of time or persons, with the desire and passion that are locatable in Romantic poetry, leaving us grateful for the work that results: work that is itself, many times over, ‘one perfectly remembered room’. Yet there is no seamless, painless transition from English Romantic poetry involved in the writing of this transatlantic poet. It is more that in her dealings with the ‘remembered room’ of Romantic poetry, Stevenson bears out Gadamer's assertion that ‘Poetry … often becomes a test of what is true, in that the poem awakens a secret life in words that had seemed to be used up and worn out, and tells us of ourselves’. As she seeks to ‘test … what is true’, Stevenson both trusts in and worries about ‘that / dark, erotic mill, the imagination’ (‘In Passing’, p. 288). There, the allusion to Blake's ‘dark Satanic Mills’ (line 8) in his ‘Jerusalem’ (originally a lyric poem from Milton, plate 1) casts a shadow, even as the original's shudder of horror undergoes eroticising revision.