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Letters of Wallace Stevens Paperback – December 24, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Six decades of correspondence by the bard of Hartford, Conn.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

An author's letters are often more revealing than their prose, or, in Stevens's case, their poetry, and are necessary study for a fuller understanding of the artist. In addition to numerous letters, this also includes entries from Stevens's journal and photos. This first paperback edition of the 1966 original contains a new foreword by poet/scholar Richard Howard.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 929 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st paperback edition (December 24, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520206681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520206687
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in poetry, LETTERS OF WALLACE STEVENS should be essential reading. Along with Rilke's letters, it is the most fascinating book of correspondence by a twentieth-century writer: profound, witty, meticulous, at times funny, at times lyrical, and even in the duller letters written in a prose that is deliciously crisp and clear. It contains many explications of Stevens' own poems, important not only for understanding the poems but also as a way into the sometimes extremely strange imagination of one of our greatest poets.

These are also the letters of a man of integrity (a rare quality among poets, among human beings), and integrity always rejoices the heart. As a brief example, here are two statements Stevens made about his attitude toward poetry: "I write poetry because it is part of my piety: because, for me, it is the good of life, and I don't intend to lift a finger to advance my interest, because I don't want to think of poetry that way." "My state of mind about poetry makes me very susceptible and that is a danger in the sense that it would be so easy for me to pick up on something unconsciously. In order not to run that danger I don't read other people's poetry at all."

I have read this book at least ten times, and I now keep it at my bedside.
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Format: Paperback
Not only are these letters to Harriet Monroe, William Carlos Williams, Allen Tate, Donald Hall, Robert Frost (and many others) fascinating and entertaining, but the comprehensive index makes it possible to find Stevens' own comments about and explanations of individual poems--for instance, his favorite poem was "The Emperor of Ice Cream"--and details about the circumstances in which they were composed. Not only does Stevens outline his evolving theory of poetry, he also expresses his opinions about contemporary art, music and more.
Readers that enjoy literary correspondence should also see One Art (the letters of Elizabeth Bishop).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The poetry of Wallace Stevens, particularly for a person like me, without a formal educational background in literature, is daunting. And yet, with curiosity for the work and a craving for intellectual and aesthetic adventure, as well as for (secular) spiritual enlightenment, I have found the pursuit to be fabulously rewarding. With Library of America's excellent compilation of Stevens' poetry and prose, I have used the books of Lucy Beckett and Frank Kermode, both simply titled, Wallace Stevens, as study guides. Indispensable as those two books have been as guides through the sophisticated Stevens wilderness, it is the man, himself, in his own words, in, Letters, which satisfies at the end of the day.

The book is enjoyable enough, simply to read as beautifully written correspondence with friends and associates, yet much of its value is realized for a person, studying his poems, who would benefit from knowing the man better on an informal personal level, so as to contextualize his formal work. In the correspondence, many questions are informally answered about specific aspects of particular poems as well as general theoretical and philosophical statements about his work and the importance of the poet in society, especially given the decrepit state of religion, as he saw it. As valuable as all this is, what makes the book immensely useful for the student of Stevens, is the comprehensive index which allows for immediate access to all his references to specific poems, people, and places.
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