The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. Hardcover. 534 pages. In original dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.


Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879, and died in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 2, 1955. He attended Harvard University for three years, and then studied law at the New York Law School, receiving his degree in 1903. In 1904 he was admitted to the New York Bar and began to practice in New York City. From 1916 to his death he was associated with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, of which he became vice-president in 1934.

Although Wallace Stevens had contributed to the Harvard Advocate while in college, he did not gain general recognition until four of his' poems, appearing in a special 1914 wartime issue of Poetry, won a prize. He was awarded another prize for Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise, a one-act play later produced at the Province-town Playhouse, New York. Harmonium, his first volume of poems, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923; it was followed by Ideas of Order (1936), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), Parts of a World (1942), Transport to Summer (1947), The Auroras of Autumn (1950), The Necessary Angel (a volume of essays, 1951), The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (1954), Opus Posthumous (edited,.with an Introduction, by Samuel French Morse, 1957), and Letters of Wallace Stevens (edited by Holly Stevens, 1966).

Wallace Stevens was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry of the Yale University Library for 1949. In 1951 he won the National Book Award in Poetry for The Auroras of Autumn; in 1955 he won it a second time for The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, which was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1955.

Wallace Stevens lived long enough to see the establishment of his unquestioned position as one of the significant and enduring poets of twentieth-century America. For more than four decades he had written—with finely tempered artistry and constantly maturing vision-poetry marked by inclusive thoughtfulness, magical evocativeness of language, and an unmistakable individuality that sets him apart from his confreres. The present volume was published to honor him on his seventy-fifth birthday, October 2, 1954.

Wallace Stevens always sought the substance of poetry in the relations between imagination and the world of reality. His separate poems were episodes in a lifelong daily poetic treatment of those relations. Taken together, they create a world that is at once the time in which we and the poet have lived and a realization of that world in poetry. The entire body of Stevens's creation may be described as the life of a man who always regarded poetry itself as real and of enduring vitality.

For too long the somewhat exclusive admiration of a small group, Wallace Stevens in his later years achieved international recognition as a master poetical craftsman of the very first order. His poems are fastidiously and exquisitely formed, not only for the sake of formal and aesthetic strategy, but also because—with Wallace Stevens, as with all true poets—form and substance are indivisible. Here they merge in the symbolic expression of a genuine creative sensitivity, enriching life and the corpus of American literature.

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