Saturday, August 22, 2009
The first edition of Wallace Stevens’s work in 20 years
The only deficiency of the excellent new “Selected Poems” is that it must exclude — being drawn entirely from Stevens’s published volumes — such revealing material. It therefore gives the impression, as the volumes did, of an impersonal poet with no private griefs, a poet chiefly concerned with the relations between the imagined and the real. Stevens himself endorsed this (partial) description; it is not solely the creation of his readers. But it is a mistaken view. Because of his fierce reticence (rather like that of Emily Dickinson, whom he admired), Stevens wrote symbolic rather than transcriptive poetry. How differently might a reader take in “Burghers of Petty Death” if it had been called “A Son’s Lament for His Dead Parents,” or “The Snow Man” if it had been called “Stoicism in a Failed Marriage”? Like Dickinson, Stevens has won a wide audience in spite of the guard he put on his privacy, and we are now better acquainted with his sorrows.
Posted by Chris Mansel at 3:02 PM