Wallace Stevens 1879-1955 by gjjur4356

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									Wallace Stevens
   1879-1955
Biography
Reception
Texts
Wallace and Elsie
Stevens and Holly
Stevens at Work
       Edmund Wilson, 1924
“Mr. Wallace Stevens is the master of a style: that is
the most remarkable thing about him. His gift for
combining words is fantastic but sure: even when
you do not know what he is saying, you know that he
is saying it well.”
“When you read a few poems of Mr. Stevens, you
get the impression from the richness of his verbal
imagination that he is a poet of rich personality, but
when you come to read the whole volume through
you are struck by a sort of aridity. Mr. Stevens, who
is so observant and has so distinguished a fancy,
seems to have emotion neither in abundance nor in
intensity.”
     Gorham Munson, 1925
“The impeccability of the dandy resolves itself into
 two elements: correctness and elegance. . . . Until
 the advent of Wallace Stevens, American literature
 has lacked a dandy. Of swaggering macaronis
 there have been aplenty, but the grace and
 ceremony, the appropriate nimbleness of the
 dandy, have been lacking.”
“Elegance he attains in his fastidious vocabulary—
 in the surprising aplomb and blandness of his
 images. He will say „harmonium‟ instead of „small
 organ,‟ „lacustrine‟ instead of „lakeside,‟ „sequin‟
 instead of „spangle‟ . . . . The whole tendency of
 his vocabulary is, in fact, toward the lightness and
 coolness of French.”
           Louis Untermeyer, 1924
   “The really reticent poet of this quintet is Wallace Stevens. His is
a reticence which results in determined obscurity, an obscurity of
intention as well as an uncertainty of communication. There are, in
fact, many pages in „Harmonium‟ which lead one to doubt whether
its author even cares to communicate in a tongue familiar to the
reader; he is preoccupied with language as color or contrasting
sound-values, scarcely as a medium for registering degrees of
emotion. Moreover, what Stevens spreads before us is less like a
canvas and more like a color-palette.”
  “But for the most part, this conscious aesthete „at war with reality‟
achieves little beyond an amusing preciosity; he luxuriates in an
ingeniously distorted world. Even his titles—which deliberately
add to the reader‟s confusion by having little or no connection with
most of the poems—are typical. . . . For all its word-painting, there
is little of the human voice in these glittering lines.”
 Marguerite Wilkinson, 1919
“Sometimes poems by very clever moderns
 fall short of being good poems simply
 because the symbols used in them could
 never have been realized and profoundly
 felt and are, therefore, rather more clever
 than true.”
Dominion Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee,      I placed
And round it was, upon a hill.               a jar
It made the slovenly wilderness   in
Surround that hill.               Tennessee

                                  And round it was
                                       upon
                                          a hill

                                  It made the
                                       slovenly
                                  wilderness
                                  Surround
                                            that hill.
             Of Modern Poetry
The poem of the mind in the act   1. The poem of the mind
of finding                        2. in the act of finding
What will suffice. It has not     3. What will suffice.
always had                        4. It has not always had to find:
To find: the scene was set; it    5. the scene was set;
repeated what
                                  6. it repeated what Was in the
Was in the script.                script.
Letter to L.W. Payne, March 31,
             1928
        “This is not essentially a woman‟s meditation on religion and the
meaning of life. It is anybody‟s meditation. . . . The poem is simply an
expression of paganism, although, of course, I do not think I was
expressing paganism when I wrote it.
        Of the last two lines, it is probably the last that is obscure to you.
Life is as fugitive as dew upon the feet of men dancing in dew. Men do
not either come from any direction or disappear in any direction. Life is
as meaningless as dew. [The supple and turbulent men used to be the
last stanza]
        Now these ideas are not bad in a poem. But they are a frightful
bore when converted as above.”
                     J. Hillis Miller
          From Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth-Century Writers
“Sunday Morning" is Stevens' most eloquent description of the
moment when the gods dissolve. Bereft of the supernatural,
man does not lie down paralyzed in despair. He sings the
creative hymns of a new culture, the culture of those who are
"wholly human" and know themselves. This humanism is
based on man's knowledge that "the final belief is to believe in
a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing
else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that
you believe in it willingly." There is "nothing else"--the
alternatives are to be nothing or to accept a fiction. To
discover that there never has been any celestial world is a
joyful liberation, and man says of himself: "This happy
creature--It is he that invented the Gods. It is he that put into
their mouths the only words they have ever spoken!
                The Snow Man
• One must have a mind of winter
• To regard the frost and the boughs
• Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

• And have been cold a long time
• To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
• The spruces rough in the distant glitter

• Of the January sun; and not to think
• Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
• In the sound of a few leaves,

• Which is the sound of the land
• Full of the same wind
                        The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter             Which is the sound of the land
To regard the frost and the boughs         Full of the same wind
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;       That is blowing in the same bare place

And have been cold a long time             For the listener, who listens in the snow,
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,   And, nothing himself, beholds
The spruces rough in the distant glitter   Nothing that is not there and the nothing
                                              that is.
Of the January sun; and not to think                                    —1923
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

								
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