Wallace Stevens was regarded as one of the most significant American poets of the 20th century. Stevens largely ignored the literary world and he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems (1954). In this work Stevens explored inside a profound philosophical framework the dualism between concrete reality and the human imagination. For most of his adult life, Stevens pursued contrasting careers as a insurance executive and a poet.
Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, as the son of Garrett Barcalow Stevens, a prosperous country lawyer. His mother's family, the Zellers, were of Dutch origin. Stevens attended the Reading Boys' ... more »
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Wallace Stevens Poems
The Emperor Of Ice-Cream
Call the roller of big cigars, The muscular one, and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
1 Complacencies of the peignoir, and late Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
The houses are haunted By white night-gowns. None are green, Or purple with green rings,
The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill. It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill.
Although you sit in a room that is gray, Except for the silver Of the straw-paper, And pick
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
I Among twenty snowy mountains, The only moving thing
Domination Of Black
At night, by the fire, The colors of the bushes And of the fallen leaves, Repeating themselves,
A High-Toned Old Christian Woman
Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame. Take the moral law and make a nave of it And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus, The conscience is converted into palms,
The Idea of Order at Key West
She sang beyond the genius of the sea. The water never formed to mind or voice, Like a body wholly body, fluttering Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour
Light the first light of evening, as in a room In which we rest and, for small reason, think The world imagined is the ultimate good.
Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing ...
At the earliest ending of winter, In March, a scrawny cry from outside Seemed like a sound in his mind.
Of Modern Poetry
The poem of the mind in the act of finding What will suffice. It has not always had To find: the scene was set; it repeated what Was in the script.
Continual Conversation With A Silent Man
The old brown hen and the old blue sky, Between the two we live and die-- The broken cartwheel on the hill.
Quotationsmore quotations »
''What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one's meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality.''Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "Three Academic Pieces," no. 1, The Necessary Angel (first published 1947, repr. 1951).
''The genuine artist is never "true to life." He sees what is real, but not as we are normally aware of it. We do not go storming through life like actors in a play. Art is never real life.''Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "On Poetic Truth," Opus Posthumous (1959).
''To regard the imagination as metaphysics is to think of it as part of life, and to think of it as part of life is to realize the extent of artifice. We live in the mind.''Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "Imagination as Value," The Necessary Angel (1949, repr. 1951).
''Thought is an infection. In the case of certain thoughts, it becomes an epidemic.''Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. Opus Posthumous, "Adagia," (1959).
''One cannot spend one's time in being modern when there are so many more important things to be.''Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. Opus Posthumous, "Adagia," (1959).
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The Emperor Of Ice-Cream
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its ...