A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens by Eleanor Cook

By Eleanor Cook

Wallace Stevens is among the significant poets of the 20 th century, and likewise one of the such a lot difficult. His poems may be wonderful of their verbal brilliance. they can be shot via with lavish imagery and wit, trained by way of a lawyer's common sense, and disarmingly unforeseen: a making a song jackrabbit, the seductive Nanzia Nunzio. in addition they spoke--and nonetheless speak--to modern matters. although his paintings is well known and his readership keeps to develop, many readers encountering it are baffled by means of such wealthy and weird poetry.

Eleanor cook dinner, a number one critic of poetry and specialist on Stevens, supplies us right here the basic reader's advisor to this crucial American poet. prepare dinner is going via each one of Stevens's poems in his six significant collections in addition to his later lyrics, in chronological order. for every poem she presents an introductory head be aware and a chain of annotations on tough words and references, illuminating for us simply why and the way Stevens used to be a grasp at his artwork. Her annotations, which come with either formerly unpublished scholarship and interpretive feedback, will gain novices and experts alike. cook dinner additionally offers a short biography of Stevens, and provides an in depth appendix on the way to learn smooth poetry.

A Reader's consultant to Wallace Stevens is an quintessential source and the proper spouse to The amassed Poems of Wallace Stevens, first released in 1954 in honor of Stevens's seventy-fifth birthday, in addition to to the 1997 assortment Wallace Stevens: accrued Poetry and Prose.

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Extra resources for A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens

Example text

Pecksniffiana” suggests that we ask what hypocritical stance each poem is set against. The answer is sometimes easy, sometimes not. The meaning of “Pecksniffiana” as “sayings of Pecksniff ” (as in “Virgiliana”) does not appear to be in play, yet it is not fully absent either; Stevens refuses to exempt himself from any taint of Pecksniffery. The poem offers a current American Venus, very much of the earth, if not yet of the stature of her European forerunner. The title and the pun on “on” in line 1 set the tone.

The overall order conceals Stevens’s growing sense of frustration and malaise, most evident in the long poem, “The Comedian as the Letter C,” which was rewritten and much expanded in the summer of 1922 (L 229), but appears about a third of the way through Harmonium. ”) The harmonium is a musical instrument invented about 1840, “a keyboard instrument, the tones of which are produced by free metal ‘reeds’, tongues or vibrators’, actuated by a current of air from bellows, usually worked by treadles; a kind of reed-organ” (OED; for more information, see EB, “harmonium”).

Translation of Lat. ” “I am a man of fortune greeting heirs”: Stevens invites assessment of his tone, since relations between the wealthy and their heirs vary greatly. “choirs”: birdsong fills the air in spring during the mating season; cf. Stevens’s different response to the bird choirs in “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself ” (1954). “starry”: both as in “starry-eyed” and as in “everlasting”; cf. the use of stars in v, xi.

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