‘To speak humanly….of human things. that is acutest speech’

rs wallace quoteHere is the end poem of Wallace Stevens first collection of poems, Harmonium.  Perhaps Harmonium was one long poem,  consisting of the poet’s attempt to write   his understanding of being alive.  Poetry wasn’t his day job, he earned his living as  an executive, but nevertheless he became a Pulitzer prize winning poet, and one of the most important American poets of the twentieth century.  He stated that he wrote only for himself, and reading his poetry I can believe him. Philosophic poetry that vocalizes the desire to identify purpose, or non-purpose. I commented once on how I could read T S Eliot and have a feeling of understanding while simultaneously not knowing what he was writing about.  Same goes for Wallace Stevens, and he knows this too.

“The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully,”

When Harmonium was published, he was already middle aged  44- and he had compiled a diverse collection of his poems written on his way home from work, in his spare time.  It is a mixture of pure, rational, philosophical thought, and imaginary nonsense-verse. For some time after publication he stopped writing, but returned to it later on in life, his poems are a never ending mediation on life.

“Poetry,” he said , “is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”

Wallace Steven’s poetry is cerebral, unsentimental and requires thinking.  It is because of these factors that he wan’t immediately popular, and it because of these factors that he has become more and more widely read and admired.

If modernist poetry interests you, then look further to read more of Wallace Stevens and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  I was interested to discover one of his influences was Charles Baudelaire.  He crops up everywhere I go at the moment. Bizarre.

Further reading :http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15746



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