Wallace Stevens

Franklin Library Wallace Stevens books

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens - 20th Century's Greatest Books - 1981
Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature - 1982


Poet Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens, a prominent figure in 20th-century American poetry, was born on October 2, 1879, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Stevens grew up in a middle-class family, his father working as a lawyer and his mother a schoolteacher. His upbringing was marked by a blend of practicality and intellectual curiosity, which would later influence his poetic sensibilities. After completing his education at Harvard University, where he studied literature and became acquainted with modernist aesthetics, Stevens pursued a career in law, following in his father's footsteps. He worked as a successful attorney for several years, all the while nurturing his passion for poetry. Stevens' poetic career began in the 1910s when his work started to appear in literary magazines. His early poetry shows the influence of Romanticism and Symbolism but also hints at the distinctive voice and themes that would characterize his later work.

In 1916, Stevens published his first collection of poems, Harmonium, which received little attention at the time but is now considered a landmark in American poetry. Harmonium showcases Stevens' fascination with language, imagery, and the interplay between reality and imagination. His poems often explore themes of perception, consciousness, and the nature of reality, drawing on diverse sources such as philosophy, mythology, and the visual arts. Throughout his life, Stevens maintained a dual identity as both a poet and a businessman, working as an executive for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company in Connecticut. Despite the demands of his corporate career, Stevens continued to write poetry, producing several collections that solidified his reputation as one of America's preeminent poets. Stevens' later work, including collections such as Ideas of Order (1936), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), and Parts of a World (1942), further explored his philosophical and aesthetic concerns. His poetry became increasingly abstract and meditative, marked by intricate wordplay, vivid imagery, and a deep engagement with existential questions.

In 1955, Stevens was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Collected Poems, a testament to his enduring impact on American literature. He continued to write until his death on August 2, 1955, in Hartford, Connecticut, leaving behind a rich and diverse body of work that continues to captivate readers and influence poets to this day. Wallace Stevens' poetry defies easy categorization, encompassing a wide range of styles and themes. His innovative use of language and his philosophical insights into the nature of reality have earned him a place among the most important poets of the 20th century. Today, his work continues to be celebrated for its intellectual rigor, imaginative richness, and profound exploration of the human experience.

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