Wallace Stevens

What I'm reading...A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens

I love Wallace Stevens. I count The Man with the Blue Guitar  and The Idea of Order at Key West as two of my favorite poems. They talk to me, as a writer. Stevens struck a chord with me very early; decades later, he's been a constant companion. Some of Stevens' poems seem impenetrable. That's never put me off; I always think of the last two lines from MacLeish's,  Ars Poetica : A poem should not mean / But be whenever a poem leaves me wondering. I find out what I can, and what's necessary sticks with me.

Finding out much about Stevens work became much easier with Eleanor Cook's, Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens. Cook is a Stevens' expert; this work takes Stevens' poems in chronological order and provides annotations and references. It's wonderful; I can't thank Eleanor Cook enough!


A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens - Eleanor Cook (Princeton University Press)


Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose (Library of America) - Wallace Stevens


What I'm reading...

I start out my day with poetry. Wallace Stevens is always on hand. There is a richness there that constantly informs.  I return, again and again, to his poem, The Idea of Order at Key West:



I also love The Man with the Blue Guitar. Stevens helped me understand the way an artist sees the visible world and gives it a mixture of voice and silence in witnessing it.



I first encountered Stevens' poetry in an anthology that included three of his poems: The Man with the Blue Guitar, The Emperor of Ice Cream,  and  Anecdote of the Jar. I didn't know what to make of them, but I was intrigued. Several lines stayed with me, which is the way poetry works with me. So I read more of his poems and I continue to read and reread them and understand them in different ways. Just as rereading a novel at different times of your life brings forth a whole new book, poems keep renewing themselves, or I come to them new. Over the years, in some strange alchemy, the lines feel grafted to my bones. I like to read his poems out loud. The experience is something like listening to music you love with headphones on; by giving it voice the work becomes embodied. It's a different sort of concentration and it allows more of the poem to sink in.