Wallace Stevens 101

Benjamin Voigt at Poetry Magazine:

Now regarded as a towering figure of modern verse, Wallace Stevens was probably better known as an insurance man for much of his adult life. But during a long and comfortable career at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, he also wrote poems that cut to the very heart of existence. Like his near contemporary (and sometimes rival) Robert Frost, in his poems, Stevens sought out “what will suffice” in a turbulent era of war and social upheaval. Combining absurd humor and philosophical heft, the ideas of the Romanticsand the French symbolists, he synthesized his own world of thought, a “planet on the table.” That world can sometimes feel esoteric, even obscure. As Stevens writes, “the poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully.” But this difficulty is inseparable from his myriad delights and innovations. “Stevens’s greatest originality,” critic Helen Vendler writes, “lay in his more hidden forms of utterance,” in his “strategies of concealment.” Despite these “secrecies,” his work has left a mark that’s lasted generations, influencing poets ranging from John Ashbery to Terrance Hayes. This brief selection from across his career introduces readers to his abiding concerns, to his forms of “originality” and “concealment.”

more here.