An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Helen Vendler on the Conscience of Wallace Stevens

An excerpt from Helen Vendler’s New York Times commentary on the new publication of Wallace Stevens’s Selected Poems, edited by John N. Serio and released this week by Knopf: “Stevens’s poetry oscillates, throughout his life, between verbal ebullience and New England spareness, between the high rhetoric of England (and of religion) and the ‘plain sense of things’ that he sometimes felt to be more American (and more faithful to reality). He would swear off one, then swear off the other, but each was a part of his sensibility. It became a matter of conscience to him to be European and American, to relish the sensual world and yet be true to its desolations.

“Stevens’s conscience made him confront the chief issues of his era: the waning of religion, the indifferent nature of the physical universe, the theories of Marxism and socialist realism, the effects of the Depression, the uncertainties of philosophical knowledge, and the possibility of a profound American culture, present and future. Others treated those issues, but very few of them possessed Stevens’s intuitive sense of both the intimate and the sublime, articulated in verse of unprecedented invention, phrased in a marked style we now call ‘Stevensian’ (as we would say ‘Keatsian’ or ‘Yeatsian’). In the end, he arrived at a firm sense of a universe dignified by human endeavor but surrounded always—as in the magnificent sequence ‘The Auroras of Autumn’—by the ‘innocent’ creations and destructions within the universe of which he is part.”

In addition, readers are invited to visit a related post of mine, "Wallace Stevens and His Influence," written last year over at "One Poet's Notes."

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