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Wallace Stevens--university Of Minnesota Pamphlets On American Writers #11
(Tindall, William York)

Wallace Stevens sold insurance and wrote poetry (though he rarely let people know that in Hartford where he lived and worked.) He was much interested in the changing, dynamic relationships between the opposites. He is compared to Walt Whitman in his exuberance, unconventionality, and love of America. He is compared to other modern poets in his romanticism and his uneasy acceptance and rejection of the past. He is seen as one involved with art for its own sake, yet aware of the uneasy compromises the artist must make with life (none more), and resistant to and evasive of Society and Government demands upon the artist and its claim to his work.

There follows a brief biography and extended list of his works and some analysis thereof. He was as radical in his poetry as he was conservative in his work and politics. He was, and is, a poet of the literati and the elite, rather than a popular poet like Robert Service or Robert Frost. He is a post-imagist poet with an absurdist mask, designed to disguise as part of the everyday--the extremely ordinary masking his extraordinary vision. He is compared (favorably) to the French poets Verlaine, Baudelaire and LaFarge and the author details some of their influences on Stevens. In arguing whether Stevens was a symbolist or not, the author adduces several examples and references, but makes a distinction between emblems or signs and symbols, in the symbolist sense. In the end, he decides, with Stevens, it is irrelevant. 

The author gives fairly detailed analyses of several poems by Stevens (who also wrote plays and essays), mostly to support his theses about the poet's viewpoint, obsessions and symbolic and prophetic observations. Some of the author's analyses are hauntingly poetic in themselves.

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