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Selected Poems Paperback – February 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The third in a series of handsomely designed publications of Selected volumes by major poets (following books by James Merrill and Frank O'Hara), this new selection from the whole of Stevens's career should bring this major poet's work to the attention of a new generation. Stevens is arguably the strangest of the High Modern poets, the most difficult to classify. While he partook of classical allusions and nods to American speech like his contemporaries, his poems take place in a world that is thoroughly his own, where a jar placed on the ground made the slovenly wilderness/ Surround that hill and Florida is a place where a woman sings by the sea such that it becomes merely a place by which she walked to sing. Eminent Stevens scholar Serio presents Stevens's well-known favorites (The Emperor of Ice-Cream) as well as lesser-known texts, such as Someone Puts a Pineapple Together, hidden in the poet's only volume of prose. As this volume shows, we are still catching up to the force and individuality of Stevens's imagination, and perhaps we never will. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Far more than Eliot or Pound, Stevens wished passionately to be above all a poet of twentieth-century America and its American English; and he had the luck, as they did not, to write with increasing genius to the end of his life.” —Helen Vendler, The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375711732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711732
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a reader of poetry whose ability to grasp great long poems is extremely limited. So much of the work of Wallace Stevens including 'Auroras of Autumn' and even 'Man with a Blue Guitar' do not hold and interest me. On the other hand there are certain shorter poems of Stevens which I find unequalled, incredibly beautiful. A seemingly simple poem like 'Snow Man' has a depth of thought and a music which makes me wish to possess it in mind completely , memorize it and be able to wherever I am, when I need it repeat it aloud to myself. There are passages of such great musical beauty in Stevens that he like Shakespeare and Keats provides aesthetic delight at the highest level.
This 'Selected Poems' contains much of the Stevens we know from the Anthologies. And it also contains much of the more challenging longer works which I suspect are primarily of interest to literary critics.
The preeminent Stevens critic Helen Vendler in a highly favorable review of this new 'Selected Poems' claims that its one lack is its failure to include non- published poems which show Stevens biographical personal connection to his poetry. But aside from praising highly the critical introduction of the work she finds it of great value in including the challenging, longer works.
Clearly this is a work for all lovers of Stevens poetry. I also recommend it for those who have not known the work of Stevens. They will have the great pleasure of discovering one of the greatest of the modern poets, one who even when his surface meaning escapes us provides a richness of music, a thrilling beauty in suggestiveness which is like no other.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Serio's new selection of the poetry of Wallace Stevens (1879 -1955) gave me the opportunity to revisit the works of this great American modernist poet. Stevens was able to combine his calling as a poet with a highly successful career as a lawyer and executive for the Hartford Insurance Company. This combination of poetry and practice was a source of my early fascination with Stevens many years ago. Stevens is also unusual because his first major collection of poetry, "Harmonium" appeared in 1923, when he was well into his 40s. The Library of America has published a volume of Stevens' complete poetry and prose. But this volume with poems selected by Serio, a noted Stevens scholar, includes poems from each of the poet's published volumes together with an introductory essay. It is an excellent introduction to Stevens for the new reader and will encourage those familiar with Stevens to read him again. The book is a pleasure to read and hold with large print and each poem beginning on its own page. Here are some of my thoughts on Stevens after reading this volume of Selected Poems.

Stevens writes with wit, gaiety, elegance and beauty. He is among the most philosophical of poets. He is a mixture of the realist and the romantic, and one of his major themes is combining the humdrum nature of daily reality, the quotidian, with romance and imagination through poetry. His thought is complex and shifting, but, on this reading, Stevens seemed to me as akin to an idealist who empahsizes the role of the individual mind in creating its reality. Some of the early poems such as "Sunday Morning" are highly meditative, and the abstract, philosophical character of Stevens poetry became more prevalent as he grew older.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"At night, by the fire/The colors of the bushes/And of the fallen leaves/Repeating themselves..."

Simple yet lush, colorful yet elusive -- that's Wallace Stevens in a handful of words. "The Selected Poems by Wallace Stevens" brings together many of his poems from several of his published collections, giving a taste of his evolving work throughout the years -- the weird and the elusively lovely, dense with atmosphere and intense emotion.

Over his lifetime, Stevens wrote several books of poetry, but his exquisite poems are best taken by themselves: the lush grandeur of "Sunday Morning," the hymnlike "Le Monocle De Mon Oncle," the gritty weirdness of "Bantams in Pine-Woods," and the bittersweet farewells of "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour." He takes multiple looks at "Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird," and the lush "Six Significant Landscapes" ("A pool shines/Like a bracelet/Shaken in a dance").

In other poems, Stevens dips into outright surrealism, like in the fearful and powerful "Domination of Black" ("I saw how the night came,/Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks/I felt afraid/And I remembered the cry of the peacocks..."), and also adds a meditative bent into "The Snow Man" ("For the listener, who listens in the snow,/And, nothing himself, beholds/Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is").

If nothing else, Stevens' poetry can be read just because it is exquisitely beautiful. He lavished details all over almost every poem he wrote, and gave many of them the quality of a dream. His descriptions are simply written, but brilliantly laid out: "When my dream was near the moon,/The white folds of its gown/Filled with yellow light.
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