Michael Dirda At The Washington Post: ‘Who Was Wallace Stevens?’

Dirda reviews Paul Mariani’s new biography.

‘During his lifetime, Stevens was certainly admired — by fellow poets William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane and Marianne Moore, among others — but many early readers saw him as essentially a verbal dandy. Some critics likened his work to figure skating or tightrope dancing. His chief rival, Robert Frost, even declared that Stevens’s merely wrote about “bric-a-brac.” What’s more, as time went by, the poems grew increasingly abstract and their meaning more and more elusive. They all seemed to have something to do with the power of the imagination or could be construed as gorgeous meditations on time and mortality. In long works such as “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” — and even more so in his talks and essays — Stevens can be well nigh incomprehensible.’

As previously posted:

Helen Vendler here.

Vendler reviewed John Serio’s new “Selected Poems”  of Wallace Stevens.

“Stevens’s conscience made him confront the chief issues of his era: the waning of religion, the indifferent nature of the physical universe, the theories of Marxism and socialist realism, the effects of the Depression, the uncertainties of philosophical knowledge, and the possibility of a profound American culture, present and future.”


“Stevens’s poetry oscillates, throughout his life, between verbal ebullience and New England spareness, between the high rhetoric of England (and of religion) and the “plain sense of things” that he sometimes felt to be more American…”

See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume