Wallace Stevens

(October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955 / Pennsylvania / United States)

Wallace Stevens
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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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Quotations

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  • ''Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
    Take the moral law and make a nave of it
    And from the nave build haunted heaven.''
    Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. A High-Toned Old Christian Woman, Harmonium (1923).
  • That other one wanted to think his way to life,
    Sure that the ultimate poem was the mind,
    Or of the mind, or of the mind in these
    Elysia, these days, half earth, half mind;
    Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "Extracts from Addresses to the Academy of Fine Ideas."
  • How clean the sun when seen in its idea,
    Washed in the remotest cleanliness of a heaven
    That has expelled us and our images . . .
    The death of one god is the death of all.
    ...
    Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction."
  • ''There may be always a time of innocence.
    There is never a place.''
    Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "The Auroras of Autumn."
  • ''The sorry verities!
    Yet in excess, continual,
    There is cure of sorrow.''
    Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), U.S. poet. "The Weeping Burgher."
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Comments about Wallace Stevens

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  • Richard Iordano (11/9/2009 3:47:00 AM)

    Hi The Library of America volume of Stevens' collected poetry and prose page 311 -312,4th stanza reads, ' Wanted to lean, wnated much most to be...' I thought it was a very weird line. I looked here and of course you have it differently.'...wanted most to be.
    There is a typo in the Library of America vol? Are there any more?
    thanks and let me know

  • Richard Moores (5/15/2006 10:36:00 AM)

    You have a serious punctuation error in the first stanza of Sunday Morning.
    The line,
    'The day is like wide water, without sound.'
    should end in a comma, not a period. Thus:

    Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
    Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
    And the green freedom of a cockatoo
    Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
    The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
    She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
    Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
    As a calm darkens among water-lights.
    The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
    Seem things in some procession of the dead,
    Winding across wide water, without sound.
    The day is like wide water, without sound,
    Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
    Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
    Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

  • Lamont Palmer (2/1/2006 1:41:00 AM)

    Stevens is quite possibly the greatest poet of the 20th century. His neologistic and beautiful words defy the limitations of the concrete world and explores the depths of the imagination. And the fact that he led a very quiet, uneventful life in CT, while creating his gorgeous poetry makes him even more fascinating. I think his reclusive life strengthened his work, intensified it. If not the greatest poet of them all, he was certainly the purest. His influence will forever be felt.

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