Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
born in Reading, Pennsylvania
entered the Hartford Insurance company
--his comment on separating his work from his poetry,
"I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office." (from a letter to his wife)a letter writer
who showed his love of language, sound and sense images
"tink-tink-tink-a-a-a that are gamboling off the hackneyed
strings of his quivering mandolin." (from a letter to his
mother on August 4, 1895)
Questions in his poetry:
what is the world? what is the imagination?
(reality versus illusion)
Concept of the purpose of poetry
when religion can no longer satisfy man, poetry is needed
to replace it.
claims that poetry can create, yet "the imagination creates
nothing. We are able to romanticize and to give blue
jays fifteen toes, but if there were no such thing as
a bird, we could not create it.... Dreams are hash."
(from his collection of essays The Necessary Angel)
concept of "SUPREME FICTION"--a fiction in which "men could
propose to themselves a fulfillment. But this abstraction of fulfillment must express an agreement with reality.
presents two views of paradise:
one on earth
the other in heaven
"Peter Quince at the Clavier"
story of Susanna and the Elders
from the Apocrypha
process of life and death in the
beauty that must die is Susanna's but in memory, as in art, her beauty and the desire it awakened/awakens, remains immortal
"Anecdote of the Jar"
art has form and produces order and beauty in a world of flux and chaos
jar as symbol of created art
"Idea of Order at Key West"
singer creates order through her song.
Nature (the sea) does not have order.
Nature, without the creative imagination to order it, is beautiful, but meaningless.
"The Man on the Dump"
task is to re-order the world of the dump into a thing of beauty.